OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy FC kicked off their four game home stand with a bang.
Though the game ended in a 1-1 draw, the Energy and Rio Grande Valley FC battled for nearly 100 minutes, with the game swinging in the balance until the last kick of the ball.
Energy substitute Frank Lopez cancelled out DeShane Beckford’s first half goal with just two minutes remaining before stoppage time. Lopez rocketed a volley off the bottom of the crossbar and in the back of the net, finally drawing Oklahoma City level after a plethora of chances failed to yield a goal.
The draw keeps Oklahoma City at the top of the Group D standings for now, but the Energy still have work to do if they hope to mount a playoff push.
Finding success attacking down the right flank, the Energy still get caught in predictable patterns of play which when broken up, leave the team susceptible to dangerous counter-attacks.
At the back, individuals still seem to switch off at critical points, letting in goals off the back of crucial individual errors.
The Energy will have some time off to improve, not taking the pitch again until they host New Mexico FC on Aug. 1.
Match ratings from the draw with Rio Grande Valley:
C.J. Cochran (GK)- 6
Cochran has started every game this season and played well. His form has kept fellow goalkeeper Cody Laurendi on the bench, and this outing gave head coach John Pascarella no reason to change things up.
Getting a hand on the Toros only goal, Cochran came up with a pair of good saves to keep the deficit to just a single goal in the first half.
Zach Ellis-Hayden (D)- 7
The right side of the field continues to be Oklahoma City’s brightest spot, and Ellis-Hayden is a big reason for that.
Yet again, the Canadian has been dynamic when he is able to get forward, spraying in cross after cross into dangerous areas in the box.
While unable to contribute to a goal in the first half, he was also a catalyst in Oklahoma City peppering the Rio Grande Valley goal to close the half.
Atiba Harris (D)- 5
The duality of Harris is quite the ride.
Delivering peaks and valleys all season long, Harris yet again was in the middle of action at both ends of the pitch.
In the first half, he was a source of anxiety for Energy fans. He was nutmegged in the leadup to Beckford’s goal, as well as giving the ball away again a few moments later, opening Oklahoma City up to danger.
Yet, after halftime he was a steadying force at the back. And when the time came, he delivered.
Flicking the ball on with his head, he re-routed Ellis-Hayden’s throw into Lopez’s path for Oklahoma City’s equalizer.
Nico Taravel (D)- 5
Despite dealing with the Toros counter-attacking threat, the Energy back line often looked disorganized and made things more difficult for themselves.
Taravel, alongside Harris, got caught ball watching and flat footed on a few occasions. Oklahoma City’s pair of center halves must find consistency from whistle to whistle to keep a clean sheet, a feat they haven’t achieved yet this season.
Kyle Hyland (D)- 6
Hyland has consistently been the most difficult player to evaluate over the course of this season.
Ellis-Hayden’s exploits down the right open up an obvious channel for opponents to try to exploit.
The offshoot? Hyland hasn’t really had a ton to do.
Tonight, he handled business when called upon and was able to find spaces a bit further forward. He still appears to be working out when he should get forward and attack (a role he has been prolific in for Oklahoma City) and when he should stay tucked in to cover for his defensive colleague on the other end of the pitch.
Brad Dunwell (M)- 5
Apart from a few bright moments, Dunwell was mostly anonymous in his 45 minutes of action.
Dunwell almost was able to cover for Harris’s mistake on the first goal, but was unable to clear Oklahoma City’s lines before Beckford’s classy finish.
At the other end, he was able to link up with teammate Arun Basuljevic in the box on one occasion, but otherwise Dunwell failed to make an imprint on the game.
Charlie Ward came on to replace Dunwell at halftime.
Rafa Garcia (M)- 8
After Cordell Cato left with an injury, Garcia’s defensive cover allowed Ellis-Hayden to continue to venture into the attack.
Garcia seemed to get it right every time when deciding when to offer defensive cover as opposed to pressing forward himself.
Delivering dangerous balls all evening on set pieces, Garcia was unlucky to score himself in stoppage time.
Afterward, he secured the draw from Oklahoma City from his backside, clearing an open Toros shot from the ground.
Cordell Cato (M)- 6
Cato looked to build on his last outing early on until an injury forced his withdrawal.
He is forming a great understanding with Ellis-Hayden and is able to provide balance to the side.
Arun Basuljevic (M)- 6
It feels like big things are coming from Basuljevic when he gets on the same page as the rest of his teammates.
Working tirelessly, he seems to be a step out of sync with the rest of the team, lacking precision on his last pass.
Even if he hasn’t produced up to his standard going forward, Basuljevic has no problem working back deep into the midfield to help transition the ball from the defense.
Kodai Iida (M)- 7
Finally getting a run out in a more natural position, Iida seemed to be everywhere in the first half.
Exploding forward like a shot out of a cannon anytime he received the ball at his feet, Iida asked questions of the Toros defense with his direct runs.
Jaime Chavez (F)- 5
Chavez was unable to extend his goal streak to three games against Rio Grande Valley.
He was unable to get on the end of most balls sent his way, though it wasn’t necessarily his fault. For large stretches of the game, Chavez struggled due to a general lack of service at the point of attack.
He did almost level the game right before halftime however, careening a header off the crossbar.
Jose Hernandez (M)- 8
Coming on in relief of the injured Cato, Hernandez was Oklahoma City’s most dangerous player.
Hernandez has the skill in tight spaces to excel at Taft Stadium, almost pulling a goal from nothing on a few occasions.
His best chance came in first half stoppage time when beautiful link-up play led to an open shot near the top of the six yard box, which he fired right into the goalkeeper’s path.
Charlie Ward (M)- 6
Ward had a bit more success than Dunwell playing alongside Garcia in the midfield.
Valued for his ability to pick out passes, Ward was calm on the ball and guided the defense out of trouble once they won back possession.
Ward has impressed every outing, and it would be no shock to see him paired with Garcia in the Oklahoma City midfield going forward.
Frank Lopez (F)- 7
When Oklahoma City needed a goal, the Cuban delivered.
Still working his way back from injury, Lopez put in another great shift for the Energy off the bench.
Lopez’s speed often stretches defenses thin, but it was his volley in traffic that earned him the plaudits tonight.
Not Rated: Jon Brown and Christian Ibeagha