• Ryan Chapman

Conor Donovan's natural leadership helped earn him the Energy captaincy

When the Oklahoma City Energy open up their season at Taft Stadium on Saturday night, a fresh face will be wearing the captain’s armband.

Central defender Conor Donovan was awarded the honor, the club announced on Monday.

Donovan joined the club this offseason after spending last season with North Carolina FC where he led the team in clearances (48), aerial duals (66), blocks (13), aerial duals won (42) and passes (856).

Donovan said being named the captain meant a lot to him, especially considering it’s his first season with the club.

“Its humbling is the word I like to use,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “It’s obviously an honor to represent the team, but it’s more humbling just to be a part of a new team and have an impact like that.”

Head coach John Pascarella said he was impressed with Donovan’s ability to lead each player individually each day in training.

“You’ll notice at training he’s not going to be screaming all the time, but he does sometimes. He’s not a guy who’s always got his arm around someone’s shoulder, but he does sometimes,” Pascarella said. “He knows people very well. He figures people out very very quickly and hot to talk to them and how to dal with them. And that’s such an important piece of his job in the game in terms of directing the people right in front of him.

“He’s shown great leadership qualities in the locker room and in his personality on the field.”

Arun Basuljevic and Conor Donovan at training as the Energy prepare to face FC Tulsa (Photo: Ryan Chapman)

Though the Energy are replacing longtime members fo the club Cody Laurendi, Rafa Garcia and Kyle Hyland, the cupboards were not left bare in terms of experienced USL Championship players.

C.J. Cochran returns to his role between the posts, as well USL veterans Arun Basuljevic, Jon Brown and Jaime Chavez all returning from last year’s squad. Additionally, the Greens added left back Rob Coronado from Rio Grande Valley, Mitch Osmund from the Indy Eleven and Hiroki from Colorado Springs.

Basuljevic said he’s known Donovan for a while, and is happy to have a player of his caliber both on and off the field in Oklahoma City.

“I always knew he was a leader,” he said. “He’s obviously a very good player as well and he’s had a good career, so we’re happy to have him here.

“We think that we have leaders within the group that can supplement what he brings as well, so we can be leaders by committee with him spearheading the charge.”

Donovan agrees with Basuljevic’s sentiment, and said the team will have to tap into the leaders across the field to get the best out of the squad in the long USL campaign.

“We have a lot of veteran guys that have been around the USL, so while I’m the captain, there are a ton of leaders on this team,” Donovan said.

The Energy will open up their season with a huge test, a bout with their bitter in-state rivals FC Tulsa in the Black Gold Derby. Oklahoma City’s bid to regain the wrench and punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons kicks off at 7:30 p.m. from Taft Stadium on Saturday night. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN+.

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