Energy FC (14th, 18 points, 5-10-3) will finish up another tough stretch on Wednesday when Las Vegas Lights FC (12th, 20 points, 5-6-5)come to town in the USL’s Game of the Week. The match will be the third in eight days for the Greens, with OKC drawing 1-1 away to San Antonio FC and 1-1 at home against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in week 17.
Wednesday's match features a first-ever visit from new boys Las Vegas Lights FC. It’s been an up and down, albeit interesting, season so far for the Lights. In their most recent outing, they defeated Saint Louis FC at home, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Raul Mendiola. With the win, the Lights moved ahead of Energy FC in the Western Conference standings and are certainly in the playoff chase. OKC is feeling confident, currently riding a five-match unbeaten streak (3-0-2), and three more points on Wednesday seem very reasonable, especially considering the Lights have only won once on the road all season.
Head Coach Isidro Sanchez is leading the team from the touchline, while his father, Technical Director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola “Chelis”, is serving an eight-match suspension – his second ban of the season. Against STL, Sanchez lined the team up in 3-4-3 formation: Ricardo Ferrino; Nicolas Samayoa (Joel Huiqui, 90+5’), Marcelo Alatorre, Juan Herrera-Perla; Eric Avila, Daigo Kobayashi (Alex Mendoz, 85’), James Murphy, Carlos Alvarez; Mendiola, Samuel Ochoa, Freddy Adu (Julian Portugal, 66’).
In case you haven’t been following Vegas this season, yes, that is the Freddy Adu. The once-highly-touted American, now 29 years old, joined the Lights after making 12 appearances for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015-16. Adu has made seven appearances this season and scored one goal in the 4-1 win against the Switchbacks on June 3.
Speaking to Energy FC TV, Head Coach Steve Cooke had this to say about Wednesday’s opponent: “They are a team who can absolutely catch fire at any moment and score goals, but I think also, they give you opportunities.”
Vegas shares the wealth in terms of offensive production, with Kobayashi, Alvarez and Ochoa all on four goals for the season. Alvarez and Ochoa also lead the way with three assists each. As Cookie alluded to, scoring goals hasn’t really been the main problem for the Lights; it’s their defensive record that’s hurt them. They’ve conceded 30 goals, which is sixth-worst in the league. They also have some discipline issues, leading the league in yellow cards (51) and being fourth in reds (3).
Unfortunately, for the Greens, the injury bug continued to bite last week. While Richard Dixon and Kyle Hyland returned to the starting lineup and bench, respectively, a minor knock to Justin Chavez and sudden illness to Christian Ibeagha, reduced Cooke’s defensive options in week 17. Now, he could be without starting goalkeeper Matt VanOekel and Christian Volesky this week, as both players went off injured in the second half against the Switchbacks.
Elsewhere in the league this week, keep an eye on the matchup between LA Galaxy II (13th, 19 pts) and Reno 1868 FC (3rd, 34 pts) Wednesday night. OKC and LA are currently part of the playoff chasing pack and Reno hasn’t been beaten in 15 matches, winning the past four in a row. At the weekend, Colorado Springs (8th, 25 pts) hosts Sacramento Republic FC (6th, 30 pts), Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (15th, 13 pts) host Las Vegas, Tulsa Roughnecks FC (16th, 12 pts) travel to Saint Louis (11th, 22 pts), San Antonio FC (10th, 22 pts) head west to take on Orange County SC (5th, 30 pts), and Portland Timbers 2 (7th, 26 pts) host the Swope Park Rangers (4th, 31 pts).
Wednesday’s match at Taft Stadium kicks off at 7:00 p.m., and will be nationally televised on ESPNews. For those that don’t already have tickets, you can find them here or by calling 405-235-KICK(5425).