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.”

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.