• Garrett Johnson

OKC Defense shows promise in second half of loss to FC Tulsa

The second half performance in last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to FC Tulsa gave reason to believe in the Energy’s newly assembled backline.

Oklahoma City head coach John Pascarella saw room for improvement from his team’s defensive unit.

“In general, I thought it was pretty good,” he said. “Some of our (inside the box) defending and defending in those wide areas when we're deep on the pitch has to be a little bit better.”

The match was a tale of two halves for OKC, largely dictated by the Energy’s backline pressing forward and beginning to play as a unit in the final 45 minutes.

"I thought the second half was better than the first," Pascarella said. "There were moments late in the second half, mostly because we got stretched once we made it 2-1 trying to go and continue to go forward and get that tying goal."

Coming out of the locker room trailing 2-0, Pascarella saw his backline get past some first match issues. “I think it was more nerves than anything,” he said. “Because one of the things you could see immediately is the pressing, and there was a difference in the pressing.”

On top of the nerves, the team had to work out some natural first match kinks. All four starters, Rob Coronado, Mitch Osmond, Conor Donovan and Mueng Sunday, were not only starting their first match together, but their first match as members of the club.

The defense did help contribute in other ways, however.

Conor Donovan celebrates his goal versus FC Tulsa (Photo courtesy of Energy FC)

OKC’s lone goal of the match came actually came from the backline, with the captain, Donovan, knocking in a header to temporarily reduce their deficit to a single goal.

One way the defense can stay more compact from the start is an improved effort defending from the entire group.

"(Donovan) got sucked out of the middle and that had to do with the way we were defending in wide areas, not just from our fullbacks but our wingers as well," Pascarella said. "He got drawn out there and that created an open space in the middle of the park."

The Energy will look to build on their second half performance in their next match as they host Atlanta United 2 Saturday evening.

Kick off from Taft Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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