OKLAHOMA CITY- Trust the process.
A rallying cry across sports made popular by a once tanking Philadelphia 76ers franchise has made its way to Oklahoma City.
On the back of two straight 3-0 defeats, the Oklahoma City Energy are hard at work, just trying to trust the process.
Energy coach John Pascarella feels like his team isn’t far off, just needing to get the balance right to help turn results around.
“It’s just repetition. It’s training it,” he said.
“Getting the balance right so that if you’re going out the left side in possession you make sure that your team is balanced so that if you lose it you can recover and defend.”
Midfielder Brad Dunwell said working as a unit was one of the bigger focuses in training this past week.
“We’ve really been stressing being compact through the midfield and the back line,” Dunwell said.
“Letting [the opponent] play around us and so that’s obviously less dangerous than letting them play through us.”
Goalkeeper CJ Cochran is less worried about the balance in the team, postulating the past two results have been more a result of conceding the lead early more than anything else.
“After we get down two goals, it doesn’t matter if you lose 3-2 or 2-1. We’re not getting a win,” Cochran said. “We’re throwing numbers forward trying to get the goals and that’s just part of the game.”
Cochran also acknowledged the Energy midfield has a lot on their platter during each game.
“We ask our midfielders to do quite a bit here and they’re very good midfielders to be fair,” Cochran said.
“We’ve got a lot of new players and coming together is going to take time.”
Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, time is not on their side this season.
With the USL Championship’s delay due to the Coronavirus, the standard 34 games was cut to just 16.
In a normal season, a team with so many new faces could take 10 games to gel. But with this shortened schedule, every game matters just a bit more.
Pascarella said despite the two losses, there isn’t an extra sense of pressure building.
“We feel like there’s a ton of time. There’s 30 points still left on the board,” he said.
“We’ve only played for 18 [points] so far so that piece is not really a concern.”
“But I do sense the players are a little edgy because of having lost two in a row.”
For Cochran, he thinks there’s no added pressure from the past results, just the normal drive to win.
“I mean there’s always pressure to play well, especially with back to back home losses,” Cochran said.
Oklahoma City has a chance to turn the losing streak around and notch their first home win on Saturday.
Familiar foes Rio Grande Valley FC Toros return to Taft Stadium for their second matchup this season.
In their first matchup, late heroics from striker Frank Lopez delivered Oklahoma City a 1-1 draw.
Rio Grande Valley will be the first team from Group D the Energy has seen a second time.
“I think we’ll be better prepared in the game because we have an idea of how they play,” Pascarella said. “I can’t imagine they’re going to change all that much for one game.”
Having already played the Toros can also allow for more direct film study, affording the coaching staff the ability to show the players specific areas they can improve specifically against this opponent, Pascarella said.
“I think going into this our game plan is going to be pretty similar,” Cochran said.
The team feels they were perhaps a bit unlucky not to win the first matchup, Cochran said.
“I think their goalkeeper had three or four really good saves. If he doesn’t have one of those, we win the game,” he said.
For Dunwell this game means a bit extra, as he played for Rio Grande Valley last season/
“Going up against your former club you always want to get involved and have a good game,” Dunwell said. “Very much looking forward to it.”
The Energy and the Toros kickoff at 7 p.m. Saturday from Taft Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
“There’s still plenty of games left,” Dunwell said.
“We can still control our own destiny.”