Coming off a big win in week 10, Energy FC “finally have something to shout about,” as Callum Ross said post-match, and the squad will be feeling confident heading into the second Black Gold Derby of 2018.
Ross’s 82nd minute header ended a drought and lifted the mood around the entire club. And it could hardly have come at a better time, as the Greens head into a match against their biggest rivals with a chance to gain ground on the playoff-chasing pack and bring home a little hardware. By winning the first matchup of 2018, Energy FC can clinch the wrench with a win on Saturday night since the teams play three times during the regular season. The teams will meet again on August 8 in Tulsa.
While OKC fans will be feeling much better about the state of things, the mood in Tulsa has turned sour, Last week, the Roughnecks supporters' group the Roustabouts issued a formal statement calling for Head Coach David Vaudreuil to be sacked. Vaudreuil, a popular figure among Tulsa supporters last season, signed a contract extension through 2019 in October after leading Tulsa to their first USL Playoffs appearance and doubling the team’s points and wins from 2016.
Since the opening day loss to OKC, Tulsa has not fared very well. The Roughnecks have yet to win a match all season and are stuck in 17th on 6 points. They have managed to pick up six draws, however, meaning that they’ve at least kept things close in the majority of matches they’ve played.
Like OKC, Tulsa will also be feeling a bit more confident after they earned a result at San Antonio last weekend. The Roughnecks left Toyota Field with a point after Joaquin Rivas’s second half blast canceled out Owayne Omar Gordon’s early strike. The draw was the sixth out of the last seven matches for Tulsa.
Although they have struggled through the first part of the season, Tulsa has also had the ninth most difficult schedule based on current positions in the table – similar to OKC having the seventh most difficult schedule. It could be perceived that both sides should see better results ahead when they play more of the weaker teams in the conference.
One statistic that Tulsa is leading the league in is red cards. Four different Roughnecks players have been sent off already in 2018, including Francisco Ugarte in the opener at Taft Stadium. They are also tied for third in the league with 25 cautions. It will be interesting to see if they can keep their cool during the heated derby match on their own turf.
Against San Antonio, the Roughnecks started in their familiar 4-2-3-1: Cerda; Jusino, Omsberg, MuNoz, Vukovic; Levin, Servania; Gee, Rivas, Morton; Gamble. They played the same formation in the season opener as well, albeit with five changes to their most recent lineup.
Despite the scoreline only reflecting a 1-0 victory, Energy FC were by far the better side and pretty much dominated throughout the match the first time the two sides met. Most would say OKC should have won by more after outshooting Tulsa 21 to 11. The constant pressure also forced the Roughnecks to clear the ball 26 times compared to just 6 for OKC.
The Greens will have to watch out for a couple of familiar faces on Saturday night. Rivas and Gee are the danger men and lead the team in goals (5) and assists (4), respectively. OKC is no stranger to either of the two. Rivas scored in the Black Gold Derby clincher over Energy FC last August 3, and they are two of the few remaining players from last year’s squad.
For Energy FC, Coach Steve Cooke shifted to a 4-1-4-1 formation that worked very well against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. It will be interesting to see if he reverts back to the 4-2-3-1 that he’s preferred more often than not this season. Coach Cooke will also have to decide if he sticks with the same starting lineup that gave the club its first win in two months.
The gaffer will have a couple of additional attacking options this week with Miguel Gonzalez and Jaime Siaj both being available. Gonzalez is back in contention after serving a three-match league suspension for his red card against Reno 1868 FC on April 29. The forward was able to play in the U.S. Open Cup last week, where he scored and looked a constant threat. Siaj is returning to OKC having scored for Jordan in his national team debut against Cyprus.
Despite Tulsa being last in the conference and winless in 2018, no one in OKC is taking them lightly. When asked about the matchup, Assistant Coach Danny Stone said, “Going up and playing away from home, we’ll expect a difficult test. I think Tulsa are a team that can hurt you if you give them time and space on the ball, so we’ll look to compact ourselves defensively and deny them that time, and (we’ll) look to attack as well as we possibly can from different areas of the field.
Derbies are historically hot-tempered, and form and position in the table often do not matter. Tulsa will be extra-motivated to defend their turf, retain the wrench (at least for a little while longer) and give their own supporters something to shout about. Energy FC will be looking to reclaim their wrench and bring it back home after losing out on it for the first time last season.
Saturday’s match from ONEOK Field kicks off at 7:00 p.m. CT, and for those unable to make the trip up to Tulsa, it will be available to watch on ESPN+.