SAN DIEGO – Jeremy Bokila scored from the penalty spot in second half stoppage time to lift Oakland Roots SC to a 4-3 victory against San Diego Loyal SC on Sunday afternoon at Torero Stadium in a game that saw the visitors lose a two-goal lead in the final 15 minutes before grabbing all three points to remain alive in the race for the fourth and final playoff place in the USL Championship’s Pacific Division.
Oakland’s victory combined with Tacoma Defiance’s 3-2 win against the LA Galaxy II leaves both Roots SC and Tacoma a point back of Los Dos for fourth place with one game to go in the campaign, with Oakland set to host Sporting Kansas City II in his home finale on Saturday night.
The game opened evenly as SD Loyal looked to control the tempo while Roots SC tried to break quickly into attack, but the first good look on goal came for the hosts in the 14th minute when Collin Martin drove a long-range free kick that was parried into the air by Oakland goalkeeper Paul Blanchette and claimed at the second attempt.
Augustine Williams also tested Blanchette with a low shot a couple of minutes later, but the Sierra Leone international struck to put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute when Corey Herztog received a throw-in from the right and cut through two defenders as he approached the right edge of the penalty area and drove a low cross that was tucked home by Williams toward the back post inside the six-yard area.
San Diego almost added to its lead six minutes later when Williams delivered a low cross from the right that found Jack Blake for a first-time finish that was parried away by Blanchette, while Oakland had a chance to level in the 34th minute as Jose Hernandez controlled inside the penalty area after an attempt to clear was blocked and fired to the right corner, only for SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero to get down to save.
Roots SC pulled level 10 minutes before halftime, though, as San Diego defender Callum Montgomery tried to play a pass back to Guerrero from the right side of the penalty area but misjudged the angle and sent his pass off the inside of the left post and into the net. The visitors then took the lead seven minutes into the second half as after a cross from the left was cleared by SD Loyal’s defense, Oakland recycled possession to the top of the penalty area where Jesus Enriquez curled a shot from 20 yards just inside the left post.
Roots SC’s Akeem Ward then topped Henriquez’s finish in the 58th minute as a quick pair of passes by Wal Fall and Hernandez played him into the left side of the penalty area, where Ward flicked the ball over his defender and volleyed home left-footed into the top-left corner of the net for a two-goal lead.
The hosts almost pulled a goal back in the 66th minute when a corner kick from the left was redirected into the path of Alejandro Guido inside the penalty area, setting him up for a shot that was parried wide of the left post by Blanchette. Enriquez then forced a good save at the other end as he created space for an effort from the left side of the penalty area that was saved by Guerrero as he shot to the far post.
SD Loyal made it a one-goal game with 13 minutes to go, however, as Williams controlled a cross from the left by Elijah Martin and rifled a finish home on the half-volley into the right side of the net as Blanchette got an arm to the effort but was unable to keep it out. The game then began to get stretched as the host went after an equalizer, and Oakland almost restored its two-goal advantage three minutes later when Johnny Rodriguez fired a shot from the left side of the penalty area that was saved at the near post by Guerrero.
With four minutes to go, however, San Diego pulled level when after Williams had gone for a volleyed finish that caromed off a defender, the ball came to the feet of Hertzog, who played a deft finish with the outside of his right foot from the left side of the penalty area into the bottom-right corner of the net.
In the aftermath of the goal, Oakland was reduced to 10 men as Tarek Morad was sent off for abusive language, giving SD Loyal a man advantage. But as the game moved into second-half stoppage time Roots SC was handed a chance to regain the lead when Rodriguez broke onto a header into the penalty area from a long free kick and was brought down by Guerrero for a penalty kick. Bokila stepped up to the spot and shot high into the top-left corner past the dive of the goalkeeper to restore Roots SC’s lead.
San Diego pressed forward in search of another equalizer in the remaining minutes, but couldn’t find a clear chance to square the game as Roots SC saw out the victory and kept itself in the hunt for a postseason place going to its final game of the regular season.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Matias Fissore, Oakland Roots SC – Fissore had one assist and had a stellar game in the center of midfield for the visitors, completing 37 of 44 passes and four key passes while making nine recoveries defensively.
SD – Augustine Williams (Corey Hertzog) 17’
OAK – Callum Montgomery (Own Goal) 35’
OAK – Jesus Enriquez (Matias Fissore) 52’
OAK – Akeem Ward (Jose Hernandez) 58’
SD – Augustine Williams (Elijah Martin) 77’
SD – Corey Hertzog 86’
OAK – Jeremy Bokila (Penalty Kick) 90+3’