The Oppo: OKC Energy FC
Throwing a wrench into the division.
Welcome back to the Oppo! A series of articles breaking down the Birmingham Legion regular season foes. In this chapter we are taking a dive into OKC Energy. These two sides have never met before, but Legion fans won’t have to wait long into the season to welcome the Energy to the Central Division, and see what they are all about. The Oklahoma boys will be making their first ever trip to Birmingham May 26th.
OKC Energy. Yet another team that’s lost its luster. Once a team battling it out for the Western Conference Finals year in and year out (2015-2017), now a team languishing closer to the bottom of the table than they would like. The Energy seemed to have lost power over the years. They have finished 10th or lower since 2018, and have failed to qualify for the playoffs in as many years.
The Energy somehow managed to come in dead last at 5th in their return to play group last year. It seemed like a race to the bottom between them and Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. OKC managed to underperform them though, and claim the bottom spot with a -17 goal differential and only 1 win across 16 matches last year. That performance led them to the lowest they have ever been: 17th on the Western table. Just a short fall from 15th in the 2019 season.
The team has gotten off to a fair start in their preseason however, taking home two 3-1 wins over North Texas FC and USAO respectively. The only negative was a tight 1-0 loss to the Austin Bold in a highly competitive match.
Coach John Pascarella, now is the time. Give the man a little credit, this is his first professional head coaching job. It’s also only his second year. There’s bound to be a learning curve there. However, Pascarella has had plenty of time to figure out what he wants this OKC Energy squad to look like. Now is the time to start making it work.
Pascarella has been busy bolstering his back line this off season. He has brought in Tacoma Defiance center back, and Seattle Sounders academy alumnus, Sam Rogers. Pascarella has also put his faith into another new centerback Conor Donovan, giving him the captain’s armband for the season.
Coach John will be looking to his re-Energized back line to plug up the holes from last season, and move the ball up the pitch with new signing Aidan Daniels.
The Energy have put together a fairly tight roster this off season. As mentioned, Pascarella brought in two centerbacks, Sam Rogers, and Conor Donovan.
Conor Donovan, is he a veteran? At only 24 Donovan has been around. He was at the U-20 World Cup with USA, he signed a Generation Adidas contract, and he was picked up by Orlando City SC of the MLS during a super draft. All of that in 2015 alone. Donovan then spent time with Huston Dynamo FC of the MLS before making his rounds in the USL. That’s a lot of experience sitting in the OKC Energy back line.
The Energy also added centerback Sam Rogers. While a starting spot isn’t guaranteed for the 21 year old, his numbers speak for themselves. He finished second in clearances and blocks last year for Tacoma. Rogers will really look to make a claim for himself with his passing accuracy though. He had %85.8 passing accuracy last year as well.
OKC Energy are going to need to look for forward passes this season. Maybe not much possession, but always forward. Sam Rogers will hope to break into the first team and supply Canadian U-23 international Aidan Daniels. Daniels will then look to put his keen passing on display and rack up the assist that didn’t come for him last year. While listed for the OKC Energy as a forward Daniels put out 27 key passes last year for Colorado Switchbacks, landing him on USLs 5 more players to watch, as an attacking midfielder. Aidan was only able to garner one assist for all his efforts however. He and coach Pascarella wil hope his Energy teammates can do more with them this year.
FC Tulsa . Boom. The Black Gold Derby right off the bat. OKC are going to relish this one. Taking home the wrench 4 out of the 5 times available, OKC Energy have an overall winning record against their instate rivals. This match will be a real test of all these new additions to the team on the off season. And it’s going to happen over and over again. The fans will get to (hopefully) enjoy the Black Gold Derby a total of 4 times throughout the season.
Opening and closing the season against Tulsa is going to be difficult enough, but it will be the two meetings on the inside of those bookends that matter most. Win, lose, or draw, coach Pascarella will want to see the fight and determination for the fans and the badge on opening day. Come July though, Energy will have to be ready. They’ll kick off 4 matches in only three weeks, starting at home with…Tulsa, and ending away at…Tulsa.
OKC Energy’s schedule isn’t the most difficult out there, but there’s two ways it can look early mid season. Three great performances against your instate rivals, or three bad ones. Take a look at The Oppo: FC Tulsa, and decide who you think will come out better in the first three. With the season closer against them as well, the outcomes of these three matches could highly affect the mentality of the group going forward. For better or worse, that is yet to be determined.
Shoring up the back line, and going forward. Always great things to hear from a coach, and see in a club. But it’s easier said than done. Expect glimpses of what Pascarella and co want to accomplish this year, but not the full product quite yet, from the Energy.
Final Grade: C+
All of the additions Pascarella made are positive, but it’s going to take time to put it all together, and nail down his starters for the season. I expect to see many different names on the team sheets early on in the season, a more solid starting line up around mid season, and some flashes of the future at the end of the season. Energy might be missing the playoffs again this year though, but have the potential to bring home the Wrench still. It’s all on them now.