Matchweek 22 is pivotal for Energy FC’s (13th, 23 pts, 6-12-5) 2018 campaign, as the team heads up the turnpike on Wednesday to take on the last-place team in the west, Tulsa Roughnecks FC (17th, 13 pts, 1-9-10) and returns home Saturday to face the best team in the west, Real Monarchs SLC (1st, 44 pts, 14-5-2).
The Greens will have an opportunity during the midweek to reclaim bragging rights in the state in the third and final Black Gold Derby of the season. An opening day win against Tulsa on March 17 and a draw at ONEOK Field on May 26 means that a win or draw for Oklahoma City will bring the wrench back down the turnpike, after Tulsa won it for the first time in their history in 2017.
Since former Head Coach David Vaudreuil was sacked on June 25, Tulsa has only lost once in five matches with Michael Nsien at the helm. The club earned its first win of the season, a 1-0 victory against LA Galaxy II at home on June 27, in Nsien’s first match in charge. Tulsa is also unbeaten at home during his tenure, having drawn with Las Vegas Lights FC 2-2 on June 30 and 1-1 against Fresno FC on July 28.
Roughnecks FC will be feeling fairly fresh after not playing since the draw with Fresno ten days ago, while Energy FC are in the middle of another stretch of three matches in eight days. When Saturday's match finishes, the Greens will have played six matches in 21 days. Rest or no rest, you can bet that both sides will be up for this one. Black Gold Derbies are normally feisty affairs and both sides know the importance of these matches.
Not much has changed since we last visited Tulsa. Joaquin Rivas is still the leading scorer with eight goals on the season. Paris Gee is a distant second with three but leads the way in assists with five. If there was a time for the Greens to rediscover their scoring form, it’s Wednesday night. Tulsa has allowed 42 goals this season, which is tied for fifth-worst in the entire league.
While Tulsa is this year’s Western Conference cellar dweller, our opponents at the weekend are currently top of the table. The Monarchs will also be coming off ten days rest when they face Reno 1868 FC at home on Wednesday, not having played since the 4-1 thrashing of Phoenix Rising FC at home on July 28.
This will be the first of two meetings between OKC and SLC, with the return fixture in Utah coming on October 3. As you might expect from one of the best teams in the league, Real Monarchs have no shortage of weapons, scoring 35 goals this year. Sebastian Velasquez and Chandler Hoffman are tied with seven goals apiece. Maikel Chang pulls the strings in midfield and has seven assists – good enough for fifth-best in the league. Former Energy FC fullback Kalen Ryden has chipped in with four goals and is part of a backline that’s been integral to the team’s success.
The stout Real defense has been a key reason they’ve soared to the top of the conference. SLC has allowed the third-least amount of goals in the USL (21), and they’re tied for second in the league in clean sheets (10), with Jake Leeker earning six and Connor Sparrow with four.
Elsewhere in the Western Conference playoff race this week, Los Dos (14th, 20 pts) host Fresno (10th, 30 pts) on Thursday night, Vegas (12th, 26 pts) travels east to take on Saint Louis FC (11th, 29 pts), the Swope Park Rangers (8th, 33 pts) try to end the skid as Portland Timbers 2 (7th, 33 pts) come to KC and the Roughnecks are at home to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (9th, 31 pts).
Wednesday’s match against Tulsa kicks off at 7:30 p.m. from ONEOK Field and can be streamed on espn+. Saturday’s visit from Real Monarchs SLC also kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are still available here or by calling 405-235-KICK(5425).