Energy FC Win, Advance in U.S. Open Cup
By Ryan Chapman, Sports Editor
NORMAN, OK- Energy FC looked comfortable in their opening match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, winning 3-1.
Oklahoma City avenged their loss in the competition last season, defeating NTX Rayados at John Crain Field on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. On a beautiful evening in front of a solid crowd of 417 fans, the Energy rolled to a comfortable victory.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” coach Steve Cooke said of his team, responding to their deflating loss in their last outing to the Austin Bold. “In the Open Cup, or any cup competition, unless you get that goal or two goals early on, it’s always going to be a night where you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to stay true to what you are trying to do and eventually it comes right.”
From the jump, defender Kyle Hyland was the greatest beneficiary of the widespread changes in the starting lineup. He was all over the field in the first half, not only defending for Oklahoma City, but also pushing the Energy forward and putting pressure on NTX Rayados.
In the fifth minute, Oklahoma City almost found the opening goal. Hyland whipped a cross onto the head of forward Christian Eissele, who forced the ball just wide of the net.
Eissele would almost put the Energy in front again 20 minutes later, when he again hammered a hard shot on goal, only denied by a great effort from Rayados goalkeeper Emmanuel Frias Ramirez.
Just before halftime, Hyland again found himself in a great position running forward. He created enough space to get off a shot, only to have it ricochet off of the goal frame and back out of the box where NTX Rayados then cleared the danger.
Despite controlling the game, Oklahoma City could not find the opening goal in the first half. They outshot NTX Rayados 11-5 in the first half, and played most of the game in the attacking third.
The Energy fans making the trip to Norman did not have to wait long to see their team take the lead in the second half.
Seven minutes out of the break, Alexy Bosetti put a perfect ball in off the corner. Amer Sasivarevic headed the ball past Frias Ramirez for the goal on his professional debut.
In the 61st minute, NTX Rayados equalized against the run of play. Midfielder Christian Okeke got on the end of a through ball and dribbled past the Energy defense, sneaking his shot into Oklahoma City goalkeeper Bryan Byars’ near post.
Twenty minutes later, Sasivarevic tried to hold off two NTX Rayados defenders and was fouled inside the box, earning Oklahoma City a penalty kick. Eissele stepped up to the spot and successfully put the Energy back in front with just nine minutes left to play in the match.
Substitute Omar Gordon officially killed the game off for Oklahoma City 10 minutes later. With just one man to beat, Gordon tried to dribble around the goalkeeper, but was fouled for the second penalty of the half. Je-Vaughn Watson, in just his second game for the Energy, converted the penalty to add Oklahoma City’s third goal of the night.
Eissele was pleased with the team’s response to the defeat in their last match.
“It feels great. A win is a win. You see it all the time, in the FA Cup or any sort of cup competition, it’s always difficult. Especially when you’re playing against a team that on paper you should beat, so I’m proud of our guys for coming out here and proving something,” he said.
Cooke heavily rotated the side, giving many players the chance to impress and put down a marker to push for a starting spot.
“I thought they were terrific,” Cooke said of the players getting their first game action. “These guys train right everyday, they eat right everyday, they sleep right, they rest properly, they’re prepared to go so when the opportunity rises, it’s an actual opportunity, something they are prepared to grasp with both hands and I think some players in there gave us some real food for thought and played terrifically well.”
Faced with the task of breaking down a team set up to defend for the second straight match, Oklahoma City dictated play from the opening whistle and in the end were unlucky to only score three goals on the evening.
“It’s not easy, but you have to be not only patient but you have to be quick with the ball and you have to risk a few things as well and you have to commit some bodies forward. In the first half, we got quite a lot of crosses in and it paid off for us,” Cooke said. “You need the quality in the right spaces.”
Oklahoma City will host current Eastern Conference Leaders the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Third Round of the Open Cup on May 29th at 7:30 p.m. again from John Crain Field in Norman.
Cooke is excited for his side to face the Rowdies, who come in to the game on a great run of form.
“Right now I think they’ve got more points than anybody in the league, so anytime you get to test yourself against the best it’s a good night. To get a game against probably as good a team as there is in the league right now is going to be great for us to measure ourselves,” he said.
Saturday night the Energy will return to action against the Real Monarchs from the familiar confines of Taft Stadium, also at 7:30 p.m.