• Ryan Chapman

Energy FC Not Satisfied With Draw in Black Gold Derby

A bright start fizzled out into a relatively dull affair at Taft Stadium on Friday night.

Riding a three-game winning streak, Oklahoma City Energy FC and FC Tulsa played to a goalless draw in the second installment of the Black Gold Derby in 2021.

Falling to the visitors 3-1 on opening night of the USL Championship season, the Oklahoma City Energy appeared initially as if they were going to play FC Tulsa off the pitch, looking to avenge their prior loss and keep their winning streak alive.

“I think front to back, we were the better team,” interim head coach Leigh Veidman said after the game. “The game comes down to what you do in the 18-yard boxes, and I thought we defended really well.”

A majority of the first 20 minutes were played deep inside the Tulsa half of the field, as the Energy pressed FC Tulsa to death, winning possession back time after time.

Defender Zach Ellis-Hayden said starting the game off on the right foot was a major emphasis heading into the contest.

“We’re playing at home, a big derby match, we wanted to take it to them,” he said after the game. “We didn’t want to fear them. We didn’t want to give them a chance to get into the game, so we decided it’s better for us to press them from the beginning.

“I think it’s better for us, it’s better for the fans, and it’s better for everyone. We’re on the front foot pressing so that’s kind of what our game plan was and I think it worked.”

Veidman said while his team was able to successfully pin Tulsa deep into their own half from the start, the emphasis was always on playing the way the team wants to play as opposed to identifying a weakness in the Tulsa back four.

“The main thing for us was us continuing what we do well,” he said. “If we do what we can do and do it well, I think most teams in the league will struggle with us in terms of how we react.”

Though the Energy enjoyed the vast share of possession in threatening areas, they were unable to direct a single attempt on target in the first half.

OKC’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 35th minute when defender Rob Coronado found Frankie Lopez on a cross. While Lopez was unable to direct the shot on target, Tulsa was unable to clear their lines initially, and the ball fell to the feet of Villyan Bijev just inside the penalty area.

But Bijev was unable to settle the ball and get off a shot, with Tulsa defender Modou Jadama stepping in to make the last-ditch tackle.

Villyan Bijev was unable to connect on two of OKC's best chances (Photo by Steven Christy courtesy of Energy FC).

“In terms of what we created, I think we had seven shots and only one of them was on target,” Veidman said. “Although we were the better team tonight, we’ve got to be a little bit more creative in those areas and more clinical.”

Out of the halftime break, Tulsa was able to work their way back into the game, but Bijev again almost put Oklahoma City in front in the 59th minute.

Arun Basuljevic was played in behind the Tulsa back line, but his initial run was cut off and he had to turn his back from goal near the end line. Basuljevic was able to pick his head up and cross the ball to Bijev who was waiting at the penalty spot, but his half volley sliced just wide of goal.

“We got into the box a few times. We were creating good crossing opportunities, but the ball just wasn’t falling in the right spot for us,” Veidman said. “But we were creating the chances, and I’d be worried if we weren’t. But we are. And that’s sometimes the hardest thing to do.”

For the final 15 minutes of the match, Oklahoma City spent most of their time repelling Tulsa efforts on goal to close out the draw.

On the surface, the draw isn’t the worst result, but the Energy should have done much better to capitalize on their fast start.

Oklahoma City was only able to register one shot on goal the entire game, and never really threatened Austin Wormell in goal aside of a few shots which sprayed just wide of target.

All is not lost for the Energy, as the draw moved them level with the Indy Eleven. Both teams now sit on 14 points, but Indy’s goal differential gives the the fourth spot and possession of the final playoff spot in the Central Division. But Indy also has two games in hand over Oklahoma City, as does sixth place Atlanta United 2.

“The group were not happy with the draw, and I think that speaks volumes to where these guys are at right now,” Veidman said. “They expect to go out there and win games, and that’s the mentality we want and that’s the mentality we need.”

The Greens will take the result, however, as they’ve now taken 10 of the 12 possible points that have been up for grabs for the club over the past 13 days, catapulting the Energy from last place in the division back into the thick of the playoff race.

OKC’s run of good form has come as they’ve shored things up at the back, only allowing one goal over their last four matches.

“We know that if we keep a clean sheet, we’re always going to have a chance,” Ellis-Hayden said. “That’s been a huge focus for the back four, the goalkeeper, and then obviously the rest of the team just trying to stay compact and being difficult to break down.”

Next up, Oklahoma City will host the Indy Eleven on July 10 at Taft Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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