OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy FC are refocused and ready for their next challenge a week on from their worst result of the season.
Up next, the Energy host Group D leaders San Antonio FC who have won 10 points from their first four games.
Oklahoma City also enters the match outside of a playoff spot for the first time in a month, level with FC Tulsa on points despite playing two more games than their in-state rivals.
Energy coach John Pascarella said he’s not added any extra pressure to this game and the team is focused on getting their own results.
“You still have [to play] the same number of games,” Pascarell said. “We’re still going to have to get a lot more points.”
“We still have to finish top two of [Group D], so that’s pretty simple.”
Midfielder Rafa Garcia echoed his coach. The Energy have to focus on themselves and can’t get caught up in watching the group table, Garcia said.
“We know we have to be better than last weekend,” he said. “We’ve trained with that mentality.”
San Antonio enters Taft Stadium boasting a lethal attack, with star Cristian Parano leading the way.
“He’s a special player. He’s definitely one of the best attacking players in the league,” Garcia said.
Garcia said his team will have to play well across the entire game though, citing the entire San Antonio 11 has talented players.
“But you know we’ll be up for the task. We’ve trained well all week,” Garcia said. “Probably the best we’ve trained the last few weeks in my opinion.”
Pascarella said he is weary of the threat Parano poses. He has emphasized precision on clearing out balls played over the defense, as Parano excels at collecting errant clearances and making the opposition pay.
“He’s devastating in that piece of the game,” Pascarella said.
In Oklahoma City’s last game against New Mexico, forward Jaime Chavez was stranded with no service for a vast portion of the first half. Pascarella said after the game he must tweak the system to bring Chavez into the game more.
The addition of Frank Lopez in the second half seemed to help as the Energy attack looked more fluid, so the Energy could look to deploy another attacking player closer to Chavez from the onset against San Antonio.
“Bringing in another [attacker] for me is gonna open up space for me or for the other guy to stay up top,” Chavez said.
Oklahoma City will likely have to break down a San Antonio side sporting three center backs, a look Chavez is familiar with going up against in practice every week.
“Last game New Mexico had three in the back as well and when Frank [Lopez] came in the second half, we demonstrated we could handle the pressure and go at [the defense],” he said.
The team’s knowledge of how to play a similar system should help Oklahoma City more easily digest how to attack San Antonio, Pascarella said.
“From that understanding I think we can be a bit of a better team big picture, long term,” Pascarella said.
The Energy will kick off against San Antonio at 7 p.m. from Taft Stadium on Saturday evening. Fans will again be allowed to attend, but the game will also be streamed on ESPN+.
“The point we’ve made is to go out there and compete and be harder to play against,” Garcia said.
“San Antonio is a great team. But with that being said, we’re at home and we expect to win.”