The OKC Energy and Tulsa Roughnecks met at Taft Stadium Saturday night for the second time this season and the seventh time overall for the Black Gold Derby. The derby was touchy as usual, with multiple cautions from the referee, as well as a booking or two.
The Roughnecks clearly had been paying attention to the Energy’s recent attacking form, as they came out playing fairly defensively in the first half. They played a tight and taut four-man back line, getting as many as eight or nine players back to defend as the Energy would advance towards the box. This essentially snuffed out any chances the Energy could get in the first half.
Captain Michael Thomas was spectacular yet again, firing up and down the field in his free-roaming midfield role. He was tenacious throughout, even going down with cramps in the 25th minute from seemingly working himself too hard.
A good chance for OKC came in the 30th minute off of a corner. Cuevas hit in a fantastic curving ball as he usually does, only for the ball to ricochet off of a Roughnecks defender and towards midfield.
The Energy’s chance finally came in the 45th minute, when referee Andrew Musashe called for a penalty against the Roughnecks. During an Energy corner, forward Wojciech Wojcik was seen toppling to the ground from an apparent shove, and the official immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. Michael Thomas stepped up to take the kick and, with a cool-as-a-cucumber run-up and finish, finally put an end to the madness that has been penalty taking for the Energy recently. The Energy would take that lead into halftime.
The second half saw the Energy immediately attacking full-stop at the Roughnecks tough back four. More runs on either flank were attempted, with the passes being played seemingly longer than the ones played in the first half. Thomas drifted far up enough he was often playing more as a support striker than a midfielder, sitting just behind the striker duo of Danny König and Wojcik. This passed the role of playmaker onto midfielder Michael Byskov, who was able to hold the ball at the back and distribute it to his wingers, Cuevas and Dalgaard.
Winger Sebastian Dalgaard made his mark in the 52nd minute, putting away a good chance from a wild ball in the Roughnecks box. Fullback Kyle Hyland made an excellent and powerful throw from deep in Tulsa territory, slinging the ball towards a mass of green crowded around Roughnecks keeper Jake Feener. The ball bounced around in the huddle of players before rolling to the edge of the box, where Dalgaard smashed it home with his left foot to the top-left corner of the goal. Feener could only stand with his shoulders stooped incredulously, having done seemingly everything he could.
The next 40 minutes were an open affair full of aggressive play, with Roughnecks players being booked in the 53rd, 75th and 84th minutes. Roughnecks forward Samuel Ochoa was sent off after being shown his second yellow in the 75th, with his teammates protesting referee Andrew Musashe’s decision as Ochoa walked off to the locker room.
Colin Bonner snagged his second goal of the season in the USL in the 89th minute as the game winded down, heading in a cross from the right wing. Bonner returned to the Energy on loan recently after a brief spell with MLS club FC Dallas and, like winger Coy Craft, is an up and comer with a national pedigree.
This marks the seventh straight unbeaten match for the Energy and their third straight win. They continue to climb up the table in the USL Western Conference, sitting at fourth with two games in hand to conference leaders Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Their next game will be away to FC Saint Louis next Saturday, who they drew with 2-2 in their previous matchup.
Phil’s Man of the Match: Michael Thomas (again)
- After viewing this game on the live stream provided by the USL’s YouTube channel, I have to say how disappointed I was with some fans watching the game. One crowd shot early in the first half showed a fan texting during a shot on goal (wearing an Energy t-shirt no less), while a later one found a pair of fans much more absorbed in their nachos and beer than anything on the field. Thankfully, the vast majority of fans did the team justice in the same way they always do, with fervent home field support.
- The heat played a formidable role, with the game stopped a few times for cooldowns and water breaks. The temperature hit 100 degrees during the afternoon in Oklahoma City, with it hovering right around 95 degrees at kickoff. Fans at halftime could be seen fanning themselves with programs and trying to stay cool, while players opted for towels soaked in cold water and spray bottles.
- I’ve officially got a favorite Energy player in Michael Thomas. He’s been simply fantastic this season for the Energy and has well earned his captain’s band. His pace and vision are a class above his opponents, and he’s been absolutely owning his center midfield role. On top of that, he’s always gracious and appreciative to the fans and local media. Just a really solid player and a quality guy.