Energy gain first point of USL season Friday in Kansas City
The OKC Energy gained their first point of the season, drawing 1-1 against Sporting Kansas City II Friday evening. The Greens showed well in their third match of the season, holding a 1-0 lead late into the second half.
OKC defender Rob Coronado nearly opened the scoring in the 10th minute, firing a free kick that bent towards the left side of the goal before being punched away by Kansas City goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh.
McIntosh was at the receiving end of a scary collision with Energy forward Jonathan Brown, taking a stray cleat above his right eye in the 21st minute causing a minor laceration. After a brief stoppage, he was treated and able to stay in the game.
The defense of OKC was tested early, however did not concede a first half goal thanks to a quick reacting CJ Cochran, saving a well placed shot, immediately followed by a blocked shot from captain Conor Donovan.
Donovan led the Greens defense through the first half of the match, regularly finding himself in the correct position and doing well to clear many of the Kansas City chances. He has proven himself to be a defensive anchor through the first three games, and the team is improving as a result.
Following last week’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta, Donovan mentioned some of the improvements he had seen from the first match to the second.
“We had a really good effort defensively, I thought that our movement was improved,” he said. “Tracking back with the wingers and staying with the outside backs that are really good one-on-one. Overall just good effort.”
Both teams entered the halftime scoreless, with OKC finding themselves on their toes defensively for a majority of the first half, spending a lot of time scrambling in response to the SKC II offense’s determined play.
Although Kansas City controlled possession in the first half, they were only to find the target with their shots once to the Energy’s two. Without top forwards Jaime Chavez and Frank Lopez being able to start, OKC has struggled to threaten the opposing defense.
The beginning of the second half was paced by the play of Energy winger Kodai Iida, dribbling through the opposing defense to provide a spark to an otherwise struggling offense. He drew a yellow card from Kansas City midfielder Jahon Rad as a result of a clever turn into the center of a gaping backline.
Iida, who started the season with a lingering hamstring injury, has been a bright spot in the Energy’s young season as he finds his form. He drew praise from Head Coach John Pascarella following last week’s match against Atlanta.
“If Kodai had been healthy, he would have started the first game,” he said. “He earned it in the preseason but he had an issue with his hamstring. The contribution he gave tonight was good.”
Forward Frank Lopez gave the Energy their first lead of the season in the 70th minute, squeaking a shot past McIntosh on his first touch of the season.
Lopez missed the previous two games with an injury but found himself with a goal just minutes into his season debut after replacing midfielder Arun Basuljevic in the 67th minute.
Following a newfound offensive purpose, Kansas City’s Tyler Freeman fired a goal past CJ Cochran to draw level in the 84th minute off a precise cross from forward Enoch Mushagalusa.
Tempers flared at the end of the 1-1 draw following a Frank Lopez foul that resulted in a red card as the game drew to a close. Both benches were shown yellow cards for a heated exchange as a result of Lopez being sent off.
OKC has a chance to capitalize on their first point of the season next Sunday in a rematch against Atlanta United 2 in Oklahoma City. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. and the match can be streamed on ESPN+.