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.”

Match Ratings: Energy keep clean sheet in scoreless draw

OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma City Energy kept their first clean sheet of this season, but ultimately settled for a draw against Rio Grande Valley FC.

The 0-0 draw was their last home game before traveling to face Group D leaders San Antonio FC.

Here are the match ratings for tonight’s game:

CJ Cochran (GK) – 8

Cochran was easily the best player on the pitch tonight. He made multiple saves in significant times and bailed out the defensive line when they made scary mistakes.

Cochran executed an amazing save 74 minutes in when there was a second chance shot off a corner kick. He forcefully pushed the ball over the crossbar to give OKC a chance to breath and regroup.

Joe Amico (D) – 6

Amico was OKC’s best defender tonight. This was Amico’s first start back since his injury and he proved he could produce a solid performance from the start. He did not make any major mistakes, but he was not given many opportunities to stand out on the offensive end.

Nico Taravel (D) – 5

Taravel struggled a little bit in the back. He did not always hit clean passes, but Taravel always cleared the ball away from the goal. Bottom line: that’s what a defender’s supposed to do.

Christian Ibeagha (D) – 4

Ibeagha had a difficult time in the back line the entire match. He continuously misjudged his spacing and timing which almost cost the Energy a couple of goals if not for Cochran’s heroics in goal. 

These bad touches and misjudgments are mistakes that the Energy cannot afford that close to their goal.

Zach Ellis-Hayden (D) – 6

Ellis-Hayden went through the full range of highs and a few lows this match. He had a rocky beginning by receiving a yellow card just 13 minutes into the game. 

Ellis-Hayden quickly made up for it by creating multiple chances in the attacking third. Unfortunately, no one could finish these opportunities.

After getting hit in the face right before halftime, he did not re-enter the game.

Jose Hernandez (M) – 7

Hernandez was a key piece in OKC’s attacking efforts tonight. Even though he did not score, he generated various chances for the energy. 

Charlie Ward (M) – 6

A midfielder’s job is not always flashy, but is necessary. Ward was great winning 50-50 balls, distributing the ball, and tracking back when necessary.

Ward did not stand out, but definitely played a significant role in the energy’s success. 

Rafa Garcia (M) – 6

Since Garcia kept tracking back to aid the defensive line, he could not always lead the offensive charge. That being said, when he made his way forward he was very effective.

Jon Brown (M) – 7

Brown faced a different situation as he had to switch wings to help give cover for Ellis-Hayden. It was not his fault he was pinned a bit further back and could not be more effective offensively. 

But when given the opportunity to attack Brown gave a solid performance.

Jaime Chavez (F) – 6

Chavez was focused and driven but was unable to finish any shots. He struggled a little to get on the end of balls and recapture his goal scoring form from the beginning of the restart. Yet Chavez displayed glimpses of prowess and stunning footwork.

Arun Basuljevic (F) – 5

Basuljevic struggled to receive service on the offensive end. When he finally acquired the chance he was hoping for, Basuljevic failed to deliver.


Kyle Hyland (D) – 7 in for Zach at half

Hyland replaced Ellis-Hayden at the half. He continued to be precise in his passes and thoughtful in his decision making. 

Atiba Harris (D) – 6

Harris was a steadying force for the back line. The Oklahoma City captain guided his team off their losing streak and to their first clean sheet of the season.

Not Rated: Omar Gordon, Tucker Stephenson

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 FC recharged and ready for New Mexico battle

OKLAHOMA CITY- Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, days tend to run together. 

Oklahoma City Energy FC were the beneficiaries of such a phenomenon this past week as they enjoyed their longest stretch of days off since the restart. 

The nine day break has afforded the Energy some much needed time to recover and properly prepare for their next opponents, New Mexico United, head coach John Pascarella said. 

“It’s the first time since the restart that it’s a normal period of time,” Pascarella said. “This week was actually nice that we could work together for a sustained period of time.”

After a few days off, Oklahoma City used the week shore up some of the issues they’ve had over the three game restart. 

One of the areas of focus has been across the back line. 

“We have played 90 percent of the matches pretty well,” Pascarella said. “But in every half, we’ve given up a chance or two that we didn’t need to, that we’ve kind of gifted to the opposition.”

The Energy defenders will have to find a way to maintain their high level of play in every moment across a match to cut down on those select easy chances allowed, Pascarella said.

 We do have to get better at that,” he said. 

“But that really is about cohesiveness. That is about repetition of those actions in training and in games.”

Defender Kyle Hyland was confident those small mistakes can be eliminated with more time spent on the field after the four month break.

“After a long break and then getting back into it, I think you’ll start to see those things progress and get better,” Hyland said. “I think it’s just fine tuning because I mean, we’ve been off for so long.”

Though the work at the back has been solid, Zach Ellis-Hayden has been grabbing the attention of fellow Group D opponents for his exploits roaming forward down the right flank.

Winning a penalty on the road against the Austin Bold, Ellis-Hayden keeps defenses on their toes when he is able to help the attack.  

“It’s just about picking my moments. Obviously the primary objective for a defender is to defend so I have to do that first,” Ellis-Hayden said. “But you know, I can be dangerous in the attack so it’s about picking the moments.”

Pascarella praised both Hyland and Ellis-Hayden and their ability to identify when the other has an opportunity to get forward. The balance has created stability at the back, but as the season progresses Pascarella said he would also like to see Hyland get more involved in the attack as well. 

With the extra time off, Oklahoma City has been able to properly scout and prepare for the threat New Mexico United poses.

Though the game counts for the same number of points in the table a matchup against a fellow Group D opponent, the team is looking forward to playing a new opponent.

“The benefit for our team is that they’re not seeing the same opponent over again and over again,” Pascarella said. “It’s nice to have to be able to deal with a Colorado [Springs] every once in a while that’s outside of our group or a New Mexico.” 

“But with that said, three points is three points.”

Ellis-Hayden echoed Pascarella’s sentiment.

“It’s another match for us to prove ourselves to get three points,” he said.

The Energy will be able to rely on the home fans to give them a lift, hoping to score a victory in their second of a four match home stand.

“It definitely helps to have people behind you yelling and just having people there to watch you,” Hyland said. “It makes it feel more real, more normal.”

“It’s definitely an advantage.”
Kick off from Taft Stadium is at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening. Fans who are unable to attend can stream the match on ESPN+. 

Match Ratings: Energy earn second straight home draw

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

Energy FC Drops Pair of New Kits

OKLAHOMA CITY- The phrase “better late than never” has had a mini-renaissance during the coronavirus pandemic. 

After nearly a three month delay, Oklahoma City Energy FC were finally able to announce the arrival of their primary and secondary kits.

Shipping delays tied up the new Adidas slate of uniforms, forcing the Energy to roll out their third kit for their season opener in March. 

Green returns to Oklahoma City’s uniform offerings in the new primary kit. The green base with white vertical stripes across the front gives the Energy a modern take on a classic kit design. 

Energy FC forward Koda Iida shows off the new primary kit. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

“The green is iconic,” Energy midfielder Arun Basuljevic said. “When you see the green, you immediately think of OKC Energy.”

The secondary kit is a clean offering as well. The kit is white with green piping around the shoulders and is complete with the silver rendering of the club crest as seen on the third kits. 

“The white might actually be my favorite,” Energy defender Kyle Hyland said. “I’ve worn a lot of kits in my six years in OKC and they keep getting better.”

Midfielder Rafa Garcia models the new secondary kit, featuring the club crest in silver. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Fans may recognize the new look for the Energy as they actually had a hand in picking them. Energy FC Chief Operating Officer Jeff Kretchmar said supporters were polled on various kit designs, and the top two vote getters became the new primary and secondary kits. 

“We wanted to make sure the fans had a say in what the jerseys look like,” Kretchmar said. 

Though the fans were solicited for their votes, Kretchmar said the club had a clear vision in mind for what the primary kit would look like. 

“We always knew we wanted to go back to green,” he said.

Kyle Hyland shows off the back of the primary kit featuring a local touch. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Both new uniforms also have specific local ties on the back of the shirt above the player’s names. 

The primary kit features the Oklahoma state motto “Labor Omnia Vincit” in blue print.

For the secondary kit the club called upon Oklahoma’s new state logo, printed in green to match the numbers and piping of the shirt. 

Defender Christian Ibeagha displays the controversial new logo for the state of Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

“They feel great,” Basuljevic said. “They are probably my favorite kits I’ve ever worn.”

Fans won’t have to wait much longer to see the kits in person. The Energy announced in a statement on Twitter that fans would be in attendance in some way once the season resumes.

The USL voted on a provisional restart date of July 11 for the USL Championship season. 

Energy FC honors OKC Memorial with new uniform

By Ryan Chapman

OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma City Energy’s first set of uniforms with Adidas are deeply rooted in the city.

The Energy’s alternate third kits commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. 

April 19, 1995 would turn into a day which would forever change the face of Oklahoma City. 

Tragedy struck the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building at 9:02 a.m., when a heinous act of domestic terroism killed 168 people.

The immediate response would define Oklahoma City and Oklahomans as a whole going forward. 

Countless stories have been told of how Oklahomans dropped everything and ran toward the blast, helping in whatever way they could despite the danger and confusion. 

The response shaped what would become known as the “Oklahoma Standard”, a spirit and attitude where Oklahomans come together to overcome challenges and tragedy, no matter the cost.

“The events of the Oklahoma City Bombing, nearly 25 years ago, forever changed the lives of all Oklahomans,” Jeff Kretchmar, Energy FC Chief Operating Officer, said in a press release. “The strength and love that followed that day inspired a nation and has shaped the direction of our city.”

“When the opportunity came to help the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum, Energy FC wanted to make sure that it was a tribute worthy of this occasion.”

Energy defender Nico Taravel models the new commemorative third kit. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Goalkeeper Cody Laurendi is entering his fifth season in Oklahoma City. The Florida native said he is excited to represent the city with such a powerful message. 

“Last year I had the opportunity to go see the Memorial and listen and take in everything that has happened because I was a young kid when it happened,” Laurendi said. “To be able to show unity and a sense of community through these jerseys is something that is just amazing.”

The black uniforms will display the Survivor Tree on the back above the players’ names and numbers in silver print, a nod to the 25 years since the bombing.

The Survivor Tree is emblazoned in silver on the nape of the neck. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Defender Kyle Hyland, also in his fifth year with the club, said the image of the Survivor Tree stands out to him stemming back to his first season in Oklahoma City.

“I know the first year I was here [the fans] did a tifo for the Survivor Tree,” Hyland said. “I thought it was really cool.”

Fans at Taft Stadium display a tifo remembering those lost during a match against the Seattle Sounders FC 2 on April 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Laurendi said he is proud to wear a jersey which remembers such an important time in the history of Oklahoma City. 

“It’s obviously a tragedy,” Laurendi said. “But it seems year to year that people in Oklahoma do such a great job of rememberance of those lives that were lost.”

Hyland said the response of Oklahomans in the aftermath of the bombing sticks out to him.

“What they did even immediately after the bombing is just so incredible that everybody ran towards everything to help instead of running away from such a horrific circumstance,” he said. 

“It’s a part of the city and having something like that unites people and brings people together.”

The Energy will debut the uniforms Saturday in their season opener against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

The new jerseys are available for preorder at Twenty percent of the proceeds from the uniforms will be donated to the OKC Memorial and Museum.

Oklahoma City’s season opener will usher in a new era for the Energy.

Not only will Saturday be the first time fans will be able to see a plethora of new signings in action, but it will be the first game in charge for new head coach John Pascarella. 

Kickoff against Colorado Springs is at 7 p.m. at Taft Stadium.