Energy backing themselves to break losing skid

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.”

Energy beat Austin across the finish line: Match Ratings from OKC’s first win

AUSTIN- Finally off the line, the Oklahoma City Energy notched their first win of the season.

Hitting the road, the Energy defeated Group D opponents Austin Bold 3-1 to go top of the group.

Jon Brown, Jaime Chavez and Jose Hernandez all found the back of the net, capping off a great group effort just four days after resuming the 2020 season.

C.J. Cochran (GK)- 7

Given the nod over Cody Laurendi again, Cochran is cementing himself as the number one in goal for Oklahoma City.

A strong force organizing at the back yet again, Cochran also came up huge for the Energy in the second half. 

Leading by just a goal, a mishit clearance found a Bold attacker right outside the 18 yard box. Cochran left his line to cut down the angle, parrying the shot wide to maintain the Energy lead.

Kyle Hyland (D)- 6

With Ellis-Hayden bombing forward down the right flank, Hyland has had to adjust to a more defensive role than he has played over the past couple of seasons.

Tonight, he had a quiet night.

He was relatively untested with Austin focusing their attacks through the middle and trying to slide behind the hole Ellis-Hayden left. 

In the times he was called upon, Hyland was his sturdy self, contributing to the good night for Oklahoma City.

Nico Taravel (D)- 6

In their second match in five days, the Energy center backs looked a little rusty at times. Both Taravel and Atiba Harris were caught ball watching on a few occasions, the most crucial of which leading to Austin’s only goal. 

Taravel was replaced by Christian Ibeagha to help seal the victory late in the match.

Atiba Harris (D)- 5

Harris also had a few mistakes which could have proved costly to his team.

Picking up a caution just 10 minutes in, Harris gave away a free kick on the edge of the box putting his team in danger. 

In the second half, he also got turned around by Bold forward Billy Forbes leaving the team exposed. 

Harris did make a crucial goal line clearance in the first half, cheating the ball off the line to deny Austin. 

Zach Ellis-Hayden (D)- 8

In every game this season, Ellis-Hayden has been dynamic for Oklahoma City attacking down the right flank.

Tonight was no exception. 

From the opening whistle, the Energy defender was a handful for Austin to deal with. 

Constantly the focal point of the Oklahoma City counter attack, Ellis-Hayden won his team a penalty an hour into the match, which would be converted to give Oklahoma City the lead.

Dealing with his attacking duties, he also was able to track back in and assist with the threat Bold forward Billy Forbes posed to the Energy. 

Ellis-Hayden has arguably been Oklahoma City’s most consistent player this season, and will be a key to any playoff run the Energy can mount. 

Ray Saari (M)- 6

Saari had a quiet night but was effective. He did a good job transitioning the ball forward into the attack when the defense cleared their lines. Though he was given more license to push up the pitch than the midfielders were last time out, Saari held in behind the attack well and ensured Austin couldn’t get out on the break. 

Charlie Ward (M)- 7

Ward was excellent recycling possession all night for the Energy.
If Oklahoma City wasn’t pushing to get behind the Bold on the break, Ward was likely on the ball picking out passes to push his team up the pitch. 

Essential for the balance of the team, Ward was content to sit alongside Saari behind the attack and dispose of any threat Austin tried to mount.

The midfield maestro linked up well with almost every member of the team, spraying passes side to side to exploit every inch of space on the pitch.

Jose Hernandez (M)- 8

It took until second half stoppage time, but Hernandez finally scored a well deserved goal to cap off his performance. 

Pulling the strings in the midfield all night, Hernandez was excellent finding the spaces in the Bold midfield and dribbling through danger. 

Instrumental in many attacks, Hernandez always seemed to play the perfect ball to put one of his teammates in on goal.

Jon Brown (M)- 7

Brown marked his return to the lineup by netting the Energy’s first goal of the evening. 

When Chavez’s header found Brown in stride, he kicked it into another gear and surged past the Austin defense. Brown did well to settle the ball and tuck his shot into the back post, a dream return for Oklahoma City. 

Cordell Cato (M)- 7

Cato had a deceptively difficult job against Austin. 

Primarily an attacker, Cato’s first instincts drive him forward. But, with Ellis-Hayden attacking down the touchline, Cato had to be wary of covering in behind Ellis-Hayden at times.

He played his role to perfection, making great decisions on when to attack with his teammate and when to ease off and let Ellis-Hayden make the surging runs behind.

Cato also was excellent pressing the Austin back line. Winning the ball at least twice just outside the opposing penalty area, Cato consistently gave Oklahoma City second and third chances when everyone would have called the attack finished. 

Jaime Chavez (F)- 7

On the day he turned 33, Chavez gifted Oklahoma City the lead with his second half penalty kick.

Frustrated by a lack of service early on, Chavez kept running the channels and facilitating counter attacks for Oklahoma City until he had to be withdrawn after a collision with the Bold goalkeeper. 

Chavez also had a clever flick into Brown’s path to play him through for the Energy’s opening goal of the evening. 

Rafa Garcia (M)- 7

Tasked with seeing out the game, the experienced Garcia didn’t disappoint. 

Though he didn’t get involved much in the attacking third, he paced the team perfectly down the final 20 minutes of the game, securing three points for the Greens. 

Kodai Iida (M)- 6

For the first time, Energy fans got to see Iida in a position he is comfortable in. 

After filling in admirably at wing back against FC Tulsa, Iida was able to slot in higher up the pitch. 

Though the left side wasn’t the avenue of choice for the Oklahoma City attack, Iida still flashed his pace and technical ability in his short cameo in the second half. 

N/R: Frank Lopez, Brad Dunwell, Christian Ibeagha