It wasn’t a great night at the office, as Energy FC were soundly defeated by Phoenix Rising FC last Wednesday. The Greens started slow out of the gate, gave up two early goals and never really recovered.
Perhaps it was the quick turnaround, but the boys looked a little flat during the early stages of the match. Phoenix capitalized on two set pieces, which can be one of the most frustrating ways to concede, as it usually comes down to a failure to communicate or a lapse of concentration.
You could hear the frustration in Head Coach Steve Cooke’s post-match comments: “(In) the first twenty minutes, we’ve lost the game. Two set pieces – one a free kick, one a corner. People know they should be marking, (and they) let runners go for free. Two free headers, and after that, you’re chasing the game all night.”
There was some good buildup play that ultimately led to corner kicks or free kicks from distance, but as we’ve seen a few times this season, the Greens were unable to register a shot on goal. OKC did have the edge in possession (53/47) but couldn’t find a way to really get through the PHX defense.
Newcomer Christian Volesky couldn't get a sniff of goal in his debut for OKC. The center forward played mostly as a target man and did very well to bring the ball down and hold up play when necessary. You could see that he and Jose Angulo do have chemistry, as the pair combined well on a couple of occasions and tried to play one another in behind the defense. It’s just as important for a strike partnership to develop a mutual understanding as it is for them to be individually talented. Hopefully, their time together with Saint Louis FC gives them a bit of a jump start on that relationship and will prove to be beneficial throughout the rest of the season.
Coach Steve Cooke opted for a 4-4-2 formation again. The only change he made to the lineup that faced the Swope Park Rangers on May 5 was Volesky in place of Jaime Siaj. With Siaj due to miss the next few weeks after getting called up to the Jordan national team, it’s likely we’ll see Angulo and Volesky play up top together going forward.
The remainder of the starting lineup remained unchanged, but an early substitution for Jose Barril did not seem to sit well with the midfielder. It will be interesting to see if he’ll start any of the upcoming matches from the bench or if his visible frustration was a one-off incident, and he’ll return to the lineup on Wednesday.
The beginning of the season is arguably the toughest stretch of matches for OKC. Six of Energy FC’s eight consecutive losses have come at the hands of teams in playoff positions, the exceptions being to Fresno FC and Reno 1868 FC away.
If the Greens are to make a push for the playoffs, they’ll need to pick up points during what should be an easier run in the fixture list. In the next eight matches, OKC only faces two sides that are currently in the top eight: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on May 19 and Portland Timbers 2 on June 13. If a move up the table is going to happen, it’s likely going to happen over the next couple of months.
After the results at the weekend, Energy FC now sit 17th in the Western Conference, 11 points off a playoff spot and 19 points behind conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC.
Watch this space tomorrow for a preview of Matchweek 10, as the Greens head to Dallas to face the North Texas Rayados in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and then return home for a matchup with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday night.