California United Strikers FC v Oakland Roots Game Re-Cap

Published Sep 26, 2019


Sept. 25, 2019

By Scott French

For California United Strikers FC

IRVINE -- California United Strikers FC achieved one of its primary objectives Wednesday night, quieting Oakland Roots goal-getter Jack McInerney for 90 minutes, a big deal after the former Major League Soccer striker netted a hat trick against it in the inaugural showdown almost a month ago.

That proved pivotal in a 1-1 draw in front of 1,025 fans at Great Park's Championship Stadium that satisfied neither side but -- both teams agreed, for the most part -- rendered a most just result.

Christian Thierjung scored his third goal of the season at the start, Oakland equalized from a corner kick a half-hour later, and United (1-1-2), back on the field just three days after conquering the L.A. Force in its home opener, would have walked off with all three points if not for a stunning save on a bending Omar Nuño shot deep into stoppage.

“That was a great game today, great battle by both sides ...,” Thierjung said. “It was great that we got the goal to go in front. Unfortunately, they were able to capitalize and tie the game, and we just couldn't get that last one in the second half. We kept pushing. I'm proud of the fight from everyone today.

“Unfortunately, the result didn't go our way today, but we definitely deserved to win today.”

United head coach Don Ebert wasn't so sure about that, but he was pleased with what he got from his guys.

“[Oakland's] good. They're good. And I said it when we were up there: I love the way they play,” he said. “They're very calm, they're very experienced, and we did a lot of running the first half and survived it. And then I thought we got the better of them the second half. That's just a good, up-and-down, high-energy game. I thought it was great.”

If the Roots (0-0-2), playing their first game since that Aug. 31 National Independent Soccer Association opener in Northern California, had greater possession, they struggled to turn it into clear chances against a United defense that followed Sunday's shutout with another strong effort.

It was required against McInerney, who tallied 43 goals in 175 games for five clubs over eight MLS seasons. The 27-year-old veteran, who trialed with Montreal Impact last winter and is hoping to play his way back into the top-tier league, was terrific last time, forcing United to rally with three second-half goals, the last two after the 80th minute, for a 3-3 draw.

McInerney barely got a sniff of the ball, testing Steven Barrera just once, a 12-yard blast at the left post in the 34th minute that the United goalkeeper parried for a corner kick.

Oakland scored on that corner, with Satoshi Chaffin nodding home Benji Joya's serve from the left.

“We learned our lesson [against McInerney], and we've come a long way with our defense,” Ebert said. “I mean, we [conceded] six goals in [our first] two games, and we were all over the place. I really credit the guys. They've been really focused, and tonight was a test, because I wanted to see if [the shutout against L.A.] was just a blip or if we're on our way.

“I think we're on our way with our team shape. We were much better against a really good team.”

The game hinged on a tight battle in midfield. Oakland, after conceding to Thierjung in the fourth minute, tightened things up impressively, played a high line at the back, and pressed United with vigor. United couldn't get through on the ground, and attempts to bypass the scrum aerially found little success, owing to the speed and savvy of, especially, center backs Robert Hines and Chris Christian.

“There was no room,” Ebert noted. “We talked about it. I put some speed up there [in attack] to try to get in behind and loosen it up, but [Oakland was] really good on their press. I told the guys at halftime, if they can do this for 90 minutes, we're going to be in trouble.

“We did a few adjustments [for the second half] and we got back into the game with the ball. But we did a lot chasing the first 45. They make you chase.”

The Roots didn't get what they desired from the tactic, primarily because of how Ebert constructed United's defense.

“We remembered that they have a tendency to pack the midfield and send balls in behind out midfield,” midfielder Duncan Capriotti said. “So we made sure to compact our defense, so we were kind of an umbrella shape, and keep them on the outside so they couldn't find McInerney in behind us. Because he's a striker who can put the ball away.

“Our main objective was keep him in front of us, let them go side to side, and then when we press, press hard and attack them hard, steal the ball and counter. That's the main way we tried to play in our defensive midfield.”

Thierjung's goal provided a sweet start, just as Gustavo Villalobos' in the 11th minute had done Sunday. Abraham Villon Jr. played a ball up the right channel and into the box for right back Chris Klute, who cut back against two defenders at the byline and picked out Thierjung just left of the penalty spot.

One defender surged forward to cut off the cross but missed, and Thierjung was left one-on-one with goalkeeper Jairo Zermeño. He didn't miss.

“It was a great ball by Chris Klute,” Thierjung said. “He always finds me in the right place at the right time, and the ball just happened to be right there. That's why you've always got to be ready for the opportunity to score.”

United had other opportunities, but Zermeño came up with a huge foot save after Villon connected with Thierjung in the box just before halftime and Villalobos just missed getting a piece of Klute's cross to the left post in the 74th minute.

Villon nearly bagged the winner four minutes into six minutes of second-half stoppage, after Zermeño punched Gonzalo Salguero's free kick back to him deep on the left flank. Salgeuro played it back to Nuño, just off the corner of the box, and his curling shot was headed to the upper-right corner.

Zermeño leapt to parry it off the crossbar and out for a corner, and the Roots held on for a point.

“Wow. We almost pulled it off,” Ebert said. “[Zermeño] did his job.”

United was unfortunate not to get a penalty kick when Thierjung was taken down in Oakland's box midway through the first half, but they avoided giving away a spot kick -- just barely -- with about 20 minutes to go.

Roots winger Dembakwi Yomba beat Alberto Navarro to a ball up the right flank at the top of the box, took off toward the net and went sprawling. Referee Karen Callado immediately pointed to the spot as several United players protested that there'd been no contact. After consulting with assistant referee Anthony Almeida, Callado changed her decision and gave Oakland a corner kick.

“It would have been heartbreaking on that PK,” Ebert said. “I thought it was a weird [sequence]. I was glad we got it right, because it was soft.”

United is back in action next Wednesday night at Championship Stadium, taking on San Diego 1904 FC at 7 p.m. Oakland heads south to play in San Diego on Saturday.



California United Strikers FC 1, Oakland Roots 1

CU -- Christian Thierjung (Chris Klute) 4

O -- Satoshi Chaffin (Benji Joya) 35

California United Strikers FC: Steven Barrera; Chris Klute, Michael Bryant, Xavier Fuerte (Alberto Navarro, 71), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Gonzalo Salguero, 52); Duncan Capriotti, Miguel Sanchez-Rincon (Evan Waldrep, 52); Gustavo Villalobos, Abraham Villon Jr., Kevin Jeon (Andy Contreras, 86); Christian Thierjung (Omar Nuño, 75).

Oakland Roots: Jairo Zermeno; Satoshi Chaffin, Robert Hines, Chris Christian, Eric Gonzalez; Andres Jimenez (Octavio Guzman, 46), Angel Heredia (Khadim Seye, 66); Ryan Masch, Benji Joya (Dylan Autran, 89), Julio Cervantes (Dembakwi Yomba, 46); Jack McInerney.

Yellow cards: Cal United head coach Don Ebert 17, Ryan Masch 22, Andres Jimenez 27, Andres Jimenez 27, Octavio Guzman 55, Jack McInerney 80, Michael Bryant 84, Cal United assistant coach Roy Chingirian 91+.

Referee: Karen Callado. Att.: 1,025.