Though just a draw, plenty of positives to build on for the Energy

OKLAHOMA CITY- Energy FC were mere inches from shaking their home voodoo.

Just a minute into stoppage time, Jose Hernandez whipped in a cross to a dangerous area at the back post. Teammate Omar Gordon rose to the challenge, but was unable to head the ball on frame, missing just over the crossbar. 

With Gordon unable to bury the last great chance of the game, Oklahoma City had to settle for a goalless draw against the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.

Even in a draw, the Energy took plenty of positives.

Though they are still searching for their first win, the Oklahoma City defense notched their first clean sheet of the season with a platoon of defenders contributing to the effort.

Three takeaways from the second meeting with Rio Grande Valley:

It took a village, but the Energy finally hold opponents scoreless:

Despite Oklahoma City lining up in their four defender system, seven different guys logged time at the back.

Zach Ellis-Hayden, Joe Amico and Nico Taravel all had to be replaced to nurse an injury, said coach John Pascarella.

Ellis-Hayden got the hook at halftime, while Amico was a precautionary replacement to not risk injury in his first start. Taravel looked to fall hard on his hip late in the game, forcing Pascarella to bring on Tucker Stephenson to close the contest.

Pascarella said he was proud of the defensive effort after the game.

“It was seven of them that had been under stress and strain by the fans, by the coaches, by their own teammates and by the media,” he said. “They battled, they fought, they played in the way we wanted to play.”
“I can’t ask for more from them so extremely proud of them,” Pascarella said. 

The group effort will help raise morale across the entire back line, Amico said.

“Everyone’s good and we’re all fighting to be on the field so I think just seeing how we performed with so many people in different positions is just fantastic,” he said.

CJ Cochran, best player on the pitch?

Though he was only credited with four saves, Cochran came up huge when it counted for Oklahoma City.

Whether clearing a packed box, or stopping a speculative 30 yard effort from Kyle Adams, Cochran ensured the clean sheet would be the only result on the night.

Pascarella said he was most pleased with how Cochran marshalled the back playing with a higher defensive line. Pushing higher up the pitch to collect errant passes was a calming force to the defense, knowing Cochran would be there to clear the lines as well as his normal shot stopping prowess, Pascarella said.

“He was very good and crucial and all of that tonight,” Pascarella said.

Cochran has probably been the most consistent player for the Energy this season, but he credited the entire back line with his performance.

“It was a very good defensive team performance,” he said. “And that’s what you need if you want to get a shutout.”


Road Warriors

Oklahoma City now shifts focus as seven of their last nine games will be played on the road. Though most teams are the underdogs on the road, the Energy are revelling in the chance to pick up some points outside of Taft Stadium.

“We’re pumped,” Amico said. “We’re going in to win every single game and that’s the only mentality to have.”

Some players feel playing on the road will better suit Oklahoma City’s style of play.

“We get to go away now and play on some very nice surfaces and I think that kind of lends itself to the way we want to play,” Cochran said. “We’re a team that wants to keep the ball and we want to knock it around.”
“We do that at Taft but I think it might suit us a little bit more on a little bit bigger of a field.”

The Energy’s first road test in a month comes Wednesday as Oklahoma City travels to face Group D leaders San Antonio FC.

San Antonio blanked Oklahoma City 3-0 in their last outing just a week ago.

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 FC victorious in home opener

OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma City Energy FC emerged victorious on a chilly Saturday night, notching a 2-1 victory over Las Vegas Lights FC in their home opener. Omar Gordon’s 78th minute goal proved the difference as he secured all three points for the Greens.

Deshorn Brown opened the scoring for Oklahoma City in the 13th minute. Brown made a run behind Las Vegas’s defense and was played in by teammate Alexy Bosetti, where Brown easily slotted the ball past the keeper into the upper right corner of the goal. The goal marked Brown’s third goal already just two games into the season.

Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas side leveled the game after the break, as midfielder Pablo Cruz whipped his corner into the box and found defender Javan Torre, whose front post header beat Energy goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi. Torre’s 58th minute goal looked to turn the tide, as Las Vegas enjoyed large spells of possession to open the second half.

Gordon played hero for the Energy late. Cordell Cato played a through ball, connecting with Gordon’s run, who finessed his shot into the back post as he was falling away from the goal. 

Gordon and Brown were both essential pressure release valves for the Energy, as Oklahoma City spent most of the night soaking up pressure from Vegas. Once in possession however, the Energy counter-attack sprung with blistering pace as they looked for Gordon and Brown to stretch the Las Vegas defense.

The late winner from Gordon capped off his man of the match performance, as he was a menace for Las Vegas to deal with down the right flank all night.

The Energy withstood a physical game, where they were fouled by Las Vegas 17 times and they fouled the Lights 15 times.

Oklahoma City asserted themselves down the stretch, as they dominated possession over the last 15 minutes of the match, breaking the Vegas press more consistently, punctuated by Brown’s winning goal on the counter attack. 

Oklahoma City, winners of two straight, look to continue their positive run to kickoff their 2019 campaign as they now head on the road to Sacramento next Sunday to face Sacramento Republic FC.