Project 510 remains undefeated and is leading the USL League Two Southwest Division after their first 3 games

Carlos Cruz (foreground) celebrates a goal that put his team ahead 1-0. (Ken Lester/ The Citizen)

May 25, 2022

By Ken Lester, Staff Writer

Project 51O, the development team for Oakland Roots, opened their USL League Two home schedule at Merritt College on Sunday with a dominant 4-1 victory over Central Valley Fuego FC II.

According to Oakland Roots technical director Jordan Ferrell a motto that the organization lives by is “Oakland first, always.” One of the ways Project 51O honors this motto is by creating an opportunity for local youth players to stay local by providing a path to the professional level that doesn’t force them to leave the area.

Carlos Cruz battles for a loose ball. (Ken Lester/The Citizen)

“Project 51O allows us to essentially create a capstone to the pyramid that already exists from youth soccer and amateur soccer inside the Northern California landscape that then filters into our professional team,” Ferrell said, adding that the team is “heavily focused on being a place where it’s a finishing school for moving players into the first team.”

Just days before Project 51O’s game at Merritt, the team’s starting goalkeeper, 18-year-old San Jose native Timothy Syrel, signed an academy contract with Oakland Roots as an emergency call up when an injury left Oakland with only one netminder. Syrel made his first appearance for Roots less than 48 hours later during a home game vs Los Angeles Galaxy II after starting goalkeeper Benny Diaz was issued a red card in the second half, requiring him to leave the game. Syrel helped Oakland to a 1-0 victory. 

It is this very circumstance that Ferrell sees as one of the main advantages to Project 51O – to inspire the community and give them a chance to see “people who grew up in their neighborhood navigate the pathway onto the team and under the lights at Laney on a Saturday night,” adding that he thinks it’s “really, really important that young players see that pathway.”

Project 510 competes in the USL League Two Southwest Division, where they play other California based teams, and led the division with two wins and no losses coming into their first of five home games at Merritt College on Sunday, where they faced off against second place Central Valley Fuego FC II from Fresno, CA.

15-year-old Javier Bedolla Vera strikes a pose midair after scoring what would be the winning goal. (Ken Lester/The Citizen)

The match started slow, with neither team generating many scoring chances for the first 15 minutes. This wasn’t to last, as Project 51O’s Carlos Cruz found a seam through the defense and opened the scoring midway through the first half.

From that point on it was Oakland first, always. Central Valley managed to put the pressure on long enough to earn a penalty kick, and converted it to tie the game at one-a-side, but after that their scoring chances were few and far between.

Project 51O’s methodical passing and a sound game-plan executed to perfection proved too much for Central Valley, as Project 510’s Javier Bedolla Vera, who turned 15 years old on May 4, made an excellent run to get open and put the ball into the twine to deliver his team a lead they would never relinquish.

After scoring again early in the second half, Project 51O looked content to play keep away and run the clock towards the final whistle, but fortune found them anyway as they converted a penalty kick to make it a 4-1 game, putting it far out of reach for Central Valley.

Project 51O continues their undefeated season with three wins and no losses, scoring a total of seven goals in those three games and allowing only one.

Their next home game is on Sunday May 29 at Merritt College. Tickets are $5.10 at the door, but free to Oakland Roots members. For a full schedule, see the team’s calendar here.