Black Gold Derby Preview: Energy FC opens up the season against their bitter rivals
Saturday night brings an opportunity for OKC to both capture a season opening win and beat their in-state rival. The beginning of the season is always special, but this serves as a two-for-one that could set the tone for the season.
“We want to we want to start off on a good foot,” Energy midfielder Arjun Basuljevic said of the season opener. “It's also Tulsa so we know that there's that much extra motivation. One of our biggest goals this year is to win back the wrench.”
“The Wrench” Basuljevic is referring to is a 4-foot wrench awarded to the season winners of the Black-Gold Derby, which is won by the regular season series winner and is currently held by Tulsa.
In order to get things going in the right direction, the Greens will need to heed the direction of second year manager John Pascarella.
“We've got to play well and we've got to play smart,” he said. “We don't want to get into a game that's end-to-end and run all over the place. We want to have the ball and we want to control it.”
Thoughtful and intentional possession is the key to performing well in any game, but all eyes will be on the Energy back line, which debuts a new center back that will make his cap as team captain.
In his first appearance for OKC, 25 year-old Conor Donovan hopes to bring stability to a back line that left much room for improvement coming into 2021.
New Energy defender Conor Donovan debuts for the club as the captain Saturday night against FC Tulsa
“If we're going to press, we're going to press,” Donovan elaborated on being intentional in tactics. “If we're going to sit back, we're going to sit back. I think being a unit is the most important thing for us.”
Donovan led North Carolina FC in clearances (48), blocks (13), and aerial duels won (66) in the 2020 season and is grateful to be recognized by his teammates as captain so early into his tenure with the club.
“Humbling is the word I like to use and it's obviously an honor to represent the team,” he said. “It's more humbling just to be part of a new team and to have the impact, that I think I've had, so far.”
Stopping the Tulsa attack will be all-important in securing 3 points, and the new captain will be essential in communication and stopping any chances. It would be the Energy‘s first season opening win since 2019.
The match will be played at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City. It can also be streamed on ESPN+.