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+. 

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 

Match ratings from the Energy’s return to action

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy fans waited 128 days to see their team back in action, but will have to wait a few more to see the Energy notch their first win of the 2020 campaign. 

Hosting bitter rivals FC Tulsa, neither side was able to leave Taft Stadium with three points, settling for a 1-1 draw. 

The pair of goals were both scored deep into the first half, capping off what was a steady performance for both teams.

Here are the match ratings for the Oklahoma City Energy.

C.J. Cochran (GK)- 6

Cochran had some nice saves for Oklahoma City, but his defense dealt with most of the danger on the night. Despite 11 shots being directed at the goal by Tulsa, Cochran only was tasked with three shots landing on frame.

There wasn’t much he could do about the lone Tulsa goal, but he was solid with his other two saves to help secure the point.

Zach Ellis-Hayden (D)- 7

Ellis-Hayden was tasked with managing the entire right flank at times, and he played admirably.

After shaking off some rust in the first 20 minutes, Ellis-Hayden was a headache for the Tulsa defense all night long, picking out Jaime Chavez for Oklahoma City’s first half goal.

He was defensively sound for the Energy, striking the right balance of putting himself in attacking positions while not getting stranded too far up the pitch to help his fellow defenders at the back.

Atiba Harris (D)- 7

The Energy captain mitigated danger in front of his penalty area all night, leading the team to a draw.

While delivering strong tackles to break up Tulsa attacking plays, he was unafraid to step into the midfield and move the ball forward for his team.

Harris put plenty of positives on tape for Oklahoma City to build on in their next outing.

Christian Ibeagha (D)- 8

Ibeagha was stellar all evening, a big reason why Cochran was left with not much to clean up in goal.

Twice nailing inch-perfect tackles in his own box, Ibeagha often stole the spotlight at the center of the Energy defense.

If he was feeling any rust, it wasn’t evident on the field as Ibeagha marshalled the defense for the full 90 minutes.

Christian Ibeagha put in a Man of the Match performance against FC Tulsa, clearing the Energy lines multiple times to dismantle the Tulsa attack. Photo by Steven Christy courtesy of Energy FC.

Nicolas Taravel (D)- 7

Taravel also did his part to keep the Energy solid at the back. 

Though he didn’t step into the midfield as much as he may have liked, he was able to make an impact without playing his long balls forward.

The trio of Energy center halves showed off great physicality and technical skill all evening breaking up Tulsa’s explosive counter-attacks.

Kyle Hyland (D)- 6

Making appearance number 108 for the club, Hyland had a solid day.

Though he wasn’t able to get in on the attack as much as he would have liked, Hyland was solid defensively on the left side for the Energy and gave them great width when the play moved his direction.

However, Hyland was unable to clear Marlon Santos’ header which led to Tulsa’s goal straight before the half. 

Brad Dunwell (M)- 6

Tasked with the difficult job of playing in a midfield two, Dunwell did well to cycle possession forward and connect the defense with the attack.

He won’t win tons of accolades for his performance, but Dunwell did his job pushing the Tulsa attack to the wings.

Rafael Garcia (M)- 7

Garcia’s experience helped settle the Energy into the game after Oklahoma City saw little possession in the opening 20 minutes. 

Always active in the midfield, Garcia broke up many Tulsa attacks before they got started.

He also was able to consistently play dangerous balls in on set pieces even though his teammates were unable to direct them into the back of the net.

Arun Basuljevic (M)- 7

A gritty outing for Basuljevic who grew into the game with the team.

Early on, the four month break took its toll as Basuljevic seemed to be a step out of sync with the rest of his team. 

He started to drop deeper about 20 minutes into the match, and it is no coincidence Oklahoma City began to assert themselves soon after. 

Basuljevic’s link up play was pivotal in moving the ball from defense to attack.
As a result, Tulsa fouled Basuljevic a number of times, likely contributing to his early withdrawal to make way for Jose Gomez.

Omar Gordon (F)- 6

While the Energy defended for most of the opening 20 minutes, Gordon was a bright spot with his runs in behind the Tulsa defense. Gordon had two decent chances early on surging behind the defense, but he was unable to pick out the final pass as the Energy reacclimated to playing with each other.

Often playing out wide for Oklahoma City, Gordon slotted inside to give Ellis-Hayden space to work on the right flank. Once the Energy started to hold more possession, Gordon tended to be the odd man out in the attack.

Cordell Cato replaced Gordon at halftime.

Jaime Chavez (F)- 7

Though he wasn’t provided with a ton of service, Chavez made his mark for Oklahoma City.

Hammering home the Energy’s only goal, Chavez flashed why head coach John Pascarella beamed about him in practice.

Smartly timing his run, Chavez punched home a sliding goal off of Ellis-Hayden’s cross 40 minutes in.

Chavez has the size to hold possession up top, and the quickness and creativity to make the runs behind and ask questions of any defense.

Both skills were on full display against Tulsa, admirably leading the line for Oklahoma City.

Cordell Cato (F)- 5

Replacing Gordon at halftime, Cato failed to make a real impression either way on the game.

Though he made many runs behind the defense similar to Gordon, he was given little to no service to really leave his mark.

Cato often worked back when he needed to cover for a defender who got caught too far up the pitch, so he was still helping his team despite not having the ball at his feet for most of the second half. 

Jose Hernandez (M)- N/R

Hernandez was brought on too late to really earn a rating either way.

Like everyone in the game, he needed to work his way back in after a long break, but wasn’t on the field long enough to get his feet under him.

Kodai Iida (D)- N/R

In his short cameo, Iida will have pleased his coaches.

Learning a new position, Iida brought some pace to the left wing back position even though he was unable to show off his skill and create a ton offensively. 

Iida could be an impact sub going forward for the Energy, bringing loads of pace and technical ability to the left side of the Oklahoma City attack. 

Ray Saari (M)- N/R

Saari came on for Chavez in injury time primarily to secure the point. 

A job well done in his five minutes of action. 

Energy Win Closed Doors Friendly

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy FC dispatched Sporting Kansas City II 1-0 in a friendly Friday evening.

In a measured performance, Energy head coach John Pascarella experimented with a few different tactical looks. He deployed formations with both three and four defenders at the back across the 90 minute friendly. 

Pascarella said he was pleased with how his team took to the different tactics deployed throughout the match. 

“I think there’s different combinations that we can play depending on the players that we have,” he said. “It will give us that tactical flexibility.”
For the first 45 minutes, the Energy rolled out all three centre backs, utilizing Kyle Hyland and Zach Ellis-Hayden as wing backs. 

Though there was no score at the half, Oklahoma City dominated play throughout the first half, coming close to breaking the deadlock on two occasions. 

Early on, Jaime Chavez found himself alone behind the Kansas City defense but just steered his shot over the crossbar.

Later in the half, Arun Basuljevic rooted the Sporting II goalkeeper but ultimately smashed his shot off the inside of the right post. 

“I thought it was a pretty good performance,” Pascarella said. 

Missing just the goal, Oklahoma City carded a comfortable performance before the break. Kansas City struggled to find any space going forward, and the team looked comfortable despite playing a different system from how the team lined up in the season’s only match.

“Our play was pretty good I thought,” Hyland said after the match. “We possessed the ball well and we had good movement, shape and stuff. I thought we created good chances because of that.”

Hyland said he enjoyed the first half with the new five defender system.

“We’ve been working hard and it. The coaches have been doing well with it, teaching it and stuff so I think it could be good,” Hyland said.

“It could really bode well for us, especially at [Taft Stadium.”

Defender Nicolas Taravel echoed Hyland’s praise of the system.

“We have a lot of central midfielders so I think it’s good for us,” he said. 

“We can [win] on this system. We like it.”
Wholesale changes from both sides at halftime brought a more conventional four defender system for Oklahoma City.

Chavez, one of the lone holdovers from the first half, pushed the Energy in front early in the half.

After Omar Gordon surged behind the defense into the box, he held up play long enough for Chavez to arrive. A simple square pass to Chavez was all Oklahoma City needed, and Chavez coolly passed the ball inside the back post. 

“It felt great just being on the field,” Chavez said. “I got to be the most forward and I’m really happy.”
The Energy defended well to close the game out with a clean sheet. 

Oklahoma City will resume the season against in-state rivals FC Tulsa. The first edition of the Black Gold Derby this season will air live on ESPN2 on July 13.

Taravel, injured in the opening games last season, said he can’t wait for his first Black Gold Derby.

“Kick some ass,” Taravel said. “We will win this game.”

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. 

USL Announces Provisional Start Date

OKLAHOMA CITY- Live local soccer is once again on the horizon. 

Thursday the USL Championship Board of Governors voted to resume play with a provisional start date of July 11 targeted. 

No additional details on the resumption of play were announced regarding the schedule or format, but a start date will be welcome news to Oklahoma City Energy FC and fans alike. 

“We are beyond excited to have this opportunity to reconnect with our extraordinary fans and partners through our love of soccer and our city,” Jeff Kretchmar, Energy FC Chief Operating Officer, said. 

Though a return to play date wasn’t set until Thursday, the Energy have been back at practice preparing for the season to resume. 

Small group, non-contact training sessions resumed on May 13 for the Energy, and assistant coach Leigh Veidman said he was pleased with how the team was progressing.

“Overall, yes I was happy with where the group are at,” Veidman said. 

The Energy resumed training almost two months to the day from their season opener, so Veidmad said the suspension had wiped essentially all progress.

“Basically we have to start from scratch. It was like the first day of pre-season to where we are treating the guys as though they’ve done zero for the past eight weeks.”

Forward Tucker Stephenson acknowledged the team had been gradually ramping training back up to attempt to recapture their fitness levels.

“We initially started off with just individual one on one with the ball work and we have been progressing into two players with one ball and it’s going well,” Stephenson said.

Forward Tucker Stephenson back in training to prepare for the resumption of the USL Championship season. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

The USL’s small group guidance allows for training groups of up to four players. Defender Kyle Hyland said the coaches divided the guys up by position group to work as units in their small groups. 

Despite adding more players to the rotation, the main goal was still to get the team fit for games again.

“Most of [training] was a little more conditioning as well, but you could incorporate a little bit more passing and stuff which was nice,” Hyland said.

Veidman stressed the need to regain fitness for the safety of the players. 

Not only are the players having to guard against COVID-19, but they need to be in game shape to avoid any number of other injuries once play resumes, Veidman said. 

In the midst of strenuous training sessions, Hyland said the coaches are trying to keep team morale up. 

“The coaching staff are getting kind of creative and stuff too on how to work us and when to increase the loads and when to decrease the loads,” Hyland said.

He went on to say the coaches ended one practice with a game of soccer tennis to add a bit more fun back into things. 

When play does resume, the Energy will have almost every member of the squad fit and ready for action.

OKC Energy FC Assistant Coach Leigh Veidman directing drills at training. Photo courtesy of Energy FC.

Goalkeeper Cody Laurendi and Hyland have recovered from their minor injuries they carried into the start of the season, Veidman said.

The only member of the team still out with an injury would be defender Joe Amico.

Amico had hip surgery before the season started which he is still rehabbing.

“He was going to be out for six months. So this period has allowed him to one get fit and two completely go through his rehab,” Veidman said.

“Hopefully he’s back to getting on the field soon and starting his rehab back on the field.”

In the absence of soccer, the team has tried to make the most of the experience. 

The Energy entered the season with a new coaching staff and substantial roster turnover, so the team has used the break to gel so they are ready to compete once they hit the field again.

“It does just give an extra time period for guys to kind of link up and work together in that specific position area,” Stephenson said. 

“I don’t think it gives us a disadvantage, that’s for sure.”