OKLAHOMA CITY- Things are going to look a bit different on the Oklahoma City Energy sideline tomorrow against San Antonio FC.
The Energy announced two positive COVID-19 tests in a statement on Twitter.
“Both individuals, as well as their roommates, are quarantining at home and are in good spirits,” the club statement read.
Head coach John Pascarella later confirmed he was one of the positive tests. As a result of Pascarella’s positive test, assistant coach Leigh Veidman will also have to quarantine as he is currently Pascarella’s roommate.
“We are feeling healthy, in good spirits and are optimistic we’ll be back with the team as soon as possible,” Pascarella said on Twitter.
Since neither coach will make the trip to San Antonio, goalkeeper coach Alexis Vizarelis has been elevated to interim head coach.
Vizarelis acknowledged the team would likely have to deal with positive tests at some point, so his first reaction to the news was just with the health of his colleagues.
“First and foremost, I was worried for the human beings that are involved,” Vizarelis said. “There wasn’t really time for shock or anything like that.”
Oklahoma City immediately enacted safety precautions to ensure the group of players remains healthy.
The team will cease gathering in large groups, and will not meet for team meals or to watch film, Viazarelis said.
“Everything is going to be more individualized as far as food being delivered, video work done via Zoom,” Vizarelis said. “Everyone will prepare for the game in isolation.”
As for the team, they will try and build on their encouraging performance against Rio Grande Valley FC in their last outing.
The Energy held their opponents scoreless for the first time all season, a feather in the cap of the Oklahoma City defense.
“It’s definitely good getting that clean sheet,” defender Christian Ibeagha said. “There’s a direct correlation between the number of clean sheets and having a good defensive record.”
“It’s something we enjoyed getting.”
Midfielder Arun Basuljevic said the sturdy defensive performance will allow Oklahoma City to be more dangerous in attack.
“It allows us to be more aggressive,” Basuljevic said. “Allows us to take more risks, take more chances in the final third.”
Despite losing to San Antonio FC at home a couple of weeks ago, Basuljevic is confident the Energy can turn things around and escape with a win.
“They like to start really well so I think if we can weather the storm in the first 10 to 15 minutes… I think we’ll be fine,” he said.
Ibeagha echoed Basuljevic’s confidence.
“If we come with our approach, you know a bit more aggressive like we came out against [Rio Grande Valley] and impose that for the rest of the season, I think we’ll be okay,” he said.
Despite the distraction of the last 24 hours, Vizarelis stressed the need to focus for the entire 90 minutes if the Energy are to grind out a result.
“They were down very late against Austin Bold and scored in injury time, so we’d be a bit naive to think if we weather the storm early they’ll just go away,” Vizarelis said.
Oklahoma City and San Antonio kick off at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
“I’m going to commit and want to give everything to get three points and look forward to the challenge,” Vizarelis said.
“But I also want to make sure all my players are safe and healthy.”