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+.