Energy appoint interim coach amid positive COVID-19 tests

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.”

All Three Points: Still much to learn after OKC romped at home

OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma City Energy fell victim to familiar vices against New Mexico United. 

Individual errors led to allowing the trio of goals, falling for the second time at home by a score of 3-0.

After a fruitless first half, the Energy were more dangerous in front of goal, but ultimately were unable to get back into the game late. 

Penalty proves costly

Arun Basuljevic threw his team a lifeline out of halftime, winning a penalty and sending Jaime Chavez to the spot with a chance to pull within one goal.

For the first time in his career, Chavez was unable to convert. He sent the goalkeeper to the left, but sprayed his shot wide of the right post.

“In missing [the penalty] I think it deflated us a little bit,” Energy coach John Pascarella said after the match. 

“I think you make it 2-1 at that moment in the game and it changes.”

The inability to finish off chances has been an unwanted theme for the Energy at home so far this season. 

Basuljevic acknowledged the team had to get past the disappointment of the penalty.

“Obviously if we score the penalty, maybe the game looks different,” he said. “But these things happen in soccer so yeah we just gotta work on it.”

Outside of the penalty, the change in system from a five defender setup to a back four gave Oklahoma City new life.

Chavez and Basuljevic were often stranded with no service in the first half with so many players dedicated to defense.

“I think part of that’s my fault,” Pascarella said. “The way we shaped the team, we didn’t get Arun [Basuljevic] and Jose [Hernandez] close enough to [Chavez].”

Basuljevic said he felt more isolated in the first half, but he said it’s ultimately on him to get involved.

“I just need to figure out how to be more dangerous, even in that formation,” he said.

Defense exploited again

Mental lapses continue to plague the Energy.

Unfortunately, it appears to be different mistakes every game which lead to giving away goals.

“We’re looking for a level of consistency and we haven’t gotten there yet,” Pascarella said. “When one thing gets a little better, something else gets a little iffy.”

Gaining a better understanding of how to play together by getting more matches under their belts will help, Pascarella said. It’ll just be about addressing the mistakes and learning lessons from them, Pascarella said.

“If we don’t learn [the lessons], they’ll keep getting presented to us and presented to us over and over again until we learn them,” he said.

Still winless at home

With half the home slate down, Oklahoma City still has yet to take all three points at home.

It is a struggle to identify what exactly is preventing the Energy from emerging victorious at home, Basuljevic said, 

“It’s hard to put a finger on it. There’s no excuses,” he said. “Obviously it’s been a really weird year… but we know that we’re a good enough team.”
Pascarella didn’t pinpoint the struggles to merely playing at home. He said the team has just struggled with different moments in each home match to prevent a complete performance and a win. 

“There’s different things in different matches, I don’t necessarily think it has anything to do with being at home,” he said. “It just so happens we’ve been at home more than we’ve been away so we’ll see as we progress along.”

Oklahoma City will have two more chances to notch their first home win in their next two matches. 

Current Group D leaders San Antonio United grace Taft Stadium Aug. 8.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and those who are not in attendance can stream the game on ESPN+.

Match ratings from the Energy’s return to action

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy fans waited 128 days to see their team back in action, but will have to wait a few more to see the Energy notch their first win of the 2020 campaign. 

Hosting bitter rivals FC Tulsa, neither side was able to leave Taft Stadium with three points, settling for a 1-1 draw. 

The pair of goals were both scored deep into the first half, capping off what was a steady performance for both teams.

Here are the match ratings for the Oklahoma City Energy.

C.J. Cochran (GK)- 6

Cochran had some nice saves for Oklahoma City, but his defense dealt with most of the danger on the night. Despite 11 shots being directed at the goal by Tulsa, Cochran only was tasked with three shots landing on frame.

There wasn’t much he could do about the lone Tulsa goal, but he was solid with his other two saves to help secure the point.

Zach Ellis-Hayden (D)- 7

Ellis-Hayden was tasked with managing the entire right flank at times, and he played admirably.

After shaking off some rust in the first 20 minutes, Ellis-Hayden was a headache for the Tulsa defense all night long, picking out Jaime Chavez for Oklahoma City’s first half goal.

He was defensively sound for the Energy, striking the right balance of putting himself in attacking positions while not getting stranded too far up the pitch to help his fellow defenders at the back.

Atiba Harris (D)- 7

The Energy captain mitigated danger in front of his penalty area all night, leading the team to a draw.

While delivering strong tackles to break up Tulsa attacking plays, he was unafraid to step into the midfield and move the ball forward for his team.

Harris put plenty of positives on tape for Oklahoma City to build on in their next outing.

Christian Ibeagha (D)- 8

Ibeagha was stellar all evening, a big reason why Cochran was left with not much to clean up in goal.

Twice nailing inch-perfect tackles in his own box, Ibeagha often stole the spotlight at the center of the Energy defense.

If he was feeling any rust, it wasn’t evident on the field as Ibeagha marshalled the defense for the full 90 minutes.

Christian Ibeagha put in a Man of the Match performance against FC Tulsa, clearing the Energy lines multiple times to dismantle the Tulsa attack. Photo by Steven Christy courtesy of Energy FC.

Nicolas Taravel (D)- 7

Taravel also did his part to keep the Energy solid at the back. 

Though he didn’t step into the midfield as much as he may have liked, he was able to make an impact without playing his long balls forward.

The trio of Energy center halves showed off great physicality and technical skill all evening breaking up Tulsa’s explosive counter-attacks.

Kyle Hyland (D)- 6

Making appearance number 108 for the club, Hyland had a solid day.

Though he wasn’t able to get in on the attack as much as he would have liked, Hyland was solid defensively on the left side for the Energy and gave them great width when the play moved his direction.

However, Hyland was unable to clear Marlon Santos’ header which led to Tulsa’s goal straight before the half. 

Brad Dunwell (M)- 6

Tasked with the difficult job of playing in a midfield two, Dunwell did well to cycle possession forward and connect the defense with the attack.

He won’t win tons of accolades for his performance, but Dunwell did his job pushing the Tulsa attack to the wings.

Rafael Garcia (M)- 7

Garcia’s experience helped settle the Energy into the game after Oklahoma City saw little possession in the opening 20 minutes. 

Always active in the midfield, Garcia broke up many Tulsa attacks before they got started.

He also was able to consistently play dangerous balls in on set pieces even though his teammates were unable to direct them into the back of the net.

Arun Basuljevic (M)- 7

A gritty outing for Basuljevic who grew into the game with the team.

Early on, the four month break took its toll as Basuljevic seemed to be a step out of sync with the rest of his team. 

He started to drop deeper about 20 minutes into the match, and it is no coincidence Oklahoma City began to assert themselves soon after. 

Basuljevic’s link up play was pivotal in moving the ball from defense to attack.
As a result, Tulsa fouled Basuljevic a number of times, likely contributing to his early withdrawal to make way for Jose Gomez.

Omar Gordon (F)- 6

While the Energy defended for most of the opening 20 minutes, Gordon was a bright spot with his runs in behind the Tulsa defense. Gordon had two decent chances early on surging behind the defense, but he was unable to pick out the final pass as the Energy reacclimated to playing with each other.

Often playing out wide for Oklahoma City, Gordon slotted inside to give Ellis-Hayden space to work on the right flank. Once the Energy started to hold more possession, Gordon tended to be the odd man out in the attack.

Cordell Cato replaced Gordon at halftime.

Jaime Chavez (F)- 7

Though he wasn’t provided with a ton of service, Chavez made his mark for Oklahoma City.

Hammering home the Energy’s only goal, Chavez flashed why head coach John Pascarella beamed about him in practice.

Smartly timing his run, Chavez punched home a sliding goal off of Ellis-Hayden’s cross 40 minutes in.

Chavez has the size to hold possession up top, and the quickness and creativity to make the runs behind and ask questions of any defense.

Both skills were on full display against Tulsa, admirably leading the line for Oklahoma City.

Cordell Cato (F)- 5

Replacing Gordon at halftime, Cato failed to make a real impression either way on the game.

Though he made many runs behind the defense similar to Gordon, he was given little to no service to really leave his mark.

Cato often worked back when he needed to cover for a defender who got caught too far up the pitch, so he was still helping his team despite not having the ball at his feet for most of the second half. 

Jose Hernandez (M)- N/R

Hernandez was brought on too late to really earn a rating either way.

Like everyone in the game, he needed to work his way back in after a long break, but wasn’t on the field long enough to get his feet under him.

Kodai Iida (D)- N/R

In his short cameo, Iida will have pleased his coaches.

Learning a new position, Iida brought some pace to the left wing back position even though he was unable to show off his skill and create a ton offensively. 

Iida could be an impact sub going forward for the Energy, bringing loads of pace and technical ability to the left side of the Oklahoma City attack. 

Ray Saari (M)- N/R

Saari came on for Chavez in injury time primarily to secure the point. 

A job well done in his five minutes of action.