By Ryan Chapman, Sports Editor
Energy FC overcame a sloppy first half to earn a 2-1 victory over the Tacoma Defiance.
Oklahoma City forward Deshorn Brown bagged a brace in his return to the starting lineup, firing the Energy to their second straight home win.
Tacoma came storming out of the gate. Just 90 seconds into the game, midfielder Josh Atencio stopped Energy fan’s hearts, bouncing a shot off of goalkeeper Cody Laurendi’s back post.
For the second straight week, the Greens came out the locker room lacking energy, but Tacoma was unable to capitalize initially on their strong start.
Brown put his name into the score sheet in the 13th minute. Tacoma defender Jonathan Campbell inexplicably played a pass straight to Energy forward Cordell Cato despite being under no pressure from the Oklahoma City press. Cato coolly picked his head up and found Brown running free. Brown held off a Defiance defender and slid the ball past the advancing keeper to put the Energy in front.
“I thought the first one he took really well… He timed his run really well to Cordell’s pass. It was wonderful,” Head Coach Steve Cooke said of Brown.
Mekeil Williams nearly doubled the lead seven minutes later. Off an Oklahoma City corner, the first ball was cleared past everyone, but Atiba Harris collected the stray ball and played it back into the fray. Williams rose to meet Harris’s cross, but headed the ball on just wide.
Harris would then put his team in a precarious position.
In the 39th minute, Harris tried to step up to force an offside call, but was unsuccessful. The result allowed Defiance forward Azriel Gonzalez to release free behind the Energy defense. Gonzalez smartly chipped the advancing Laurendi, leveling the game.
Out of the break, Oklahoma City focused in and took the game to Tacoma.
“After we had made a good start and scored the goal, we slowly let them into the game a little bit. I think defensively we weren’t on the front foot enough. We didn’t press quite high enough or hard enough so we let them into the game,” Cooke said. “I think obviously second half we changed the mentality and stepped that up very very well.”
The Energy almost pushed in front on the hour mark.
Defender Alvin Jones surged forward on the right flank and played a fizzling ball towards the awaiting Brown, but Campbell just barely got a touch on the ball to deflect it wide of goal and temporarily out of danger.
Ten minutes later, Oklahoma City would find the winner.
Omar Gordon’s shot was pushed wide by goalkeeper Trey Muse, right into the path of Brown. Brown proceeded to smash the ball into the upper netting of the goal, capping of his brace and securing the maximum point haul for the Energy.
“They’re the kind of goals I think Deshorn needs to score more of, inside their six yard box, ten yards out, and really get those second chances for us,” Cooke said. “I thought he did a really good job, not only on the goals, but playing really well tonight.”
The win continues Oklahoma City’s good run of form. Taking seven points from their last three, the Energy equaled their tally from the first six matches.
Cooke’s side only saw one change from the starting lineup of the previous two weeks, with Brown retaking his starting spot from understudy Christian Eissele. The side should benefit from fielding the same lineup, as after a roller coaster, injury riddled start to the season, the Greens are finally able to feel some stability and gel together as a team.
Jones has been an exceptional addition to the team. As he continues to settle in, not only has he been perhaps Oklahoma City’s most consistent defender, but he also adds a threat going forward opposing sides will have to account for.
“Alvin Jones for me was probably the best player on the field tonight. I thought he was not only good defensively as we would expect, 1v1 especially, but going forward and creating opportunities, putting three or four wonderful crosses that are wonderful and pacey. I think he’s now growing into his fitness,” Cooke said. “The whole group tonight, especially the second half, defended well from the front and that makes life a lot easier for everyone concerned.”
With the win, Oklahoma City moved into a tie for third in the Western Conference standings, just one point off first place.
“We’re in a good position in the league. I think we’re in a position in the league where we certainly look like we could be challenging in every game and doing really well. We’ve done that without really being at our best yet, and I think we’ve done that without really taking games to teams for a full game,” Cooke said. “I think we’ve played great halves and great periods to win some games, but we know there’s much more to come.”
The Energy will hit the road again next Friday as they travel to expansion side Austin Bold FC at 7:30 p.m.