OKC Energy announce change of scenery in move to Eastern Conference
The road back to the USL playoffs will look different for the Oklahoma City Energy this season.
After first being reported by The Athletic, the Energy confirmed their move to the Eastern Conference on Tuesday.
This will mark the first season the Energy have played in the Eastern Conference, save their inaugural season when there were no conferences dividing the USL.
Midfielder Jon Brown said the move over to the Eastern Conference won’t mean much other than a different travel schedule and new opponents.
“Nothing will change for us. Some of us have played in the Eastern Conference before, so we know what to expect,” he said. “The data you have these days with the analysis side of things and you can watch the film and that, we’ll be able to prepare in the right manner for the teams that we’re going to be facing.”
Head coach John Pascarella said the style of play the Energy see on a day-in and day-out basis could change in the Eastern Conference.
“Soccer’s the same, but styles are different, and there tends to be a little bit different in the East than the West,” he said. “You can’t say from, you know, every single team and apply that (to the entire confernece), but it seems as though the West is a little more wide open. And listen, last year we got punished for that.
“The East isn’t as wide open, and if you’re not as disciplined in terms of your structure and your organization, you will be punished for it.”
Pascarella said the Energy will need to find the proper balance between attack and defense, something they struggled with last season.
“I thought our defending in general last year was good. I thought our attacking was okay,” he said. “But those moments in between were not great. So that’s going to be aspect in that transitional piece.”
In-state rivals FC Tulsa will also be making the move over to the East with OKC in an effort to balance the ever-changing USL landscape.
The last time the Energy faced Eastern Conference opposition was in their 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. After a lengthy weather delay, OKC prevailed 4-3 in a wide-open matchup, with forward Deshorn Brown providing the match winning goal off an Alexy Bosetti assist in the 60th minute.
Oklahoma City will compete in the Central Division of the Eastern Confernece along with Atlanta United 2, Birmingham Legion FC, FC Tulsa, Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC and Sporting Kansas City II.
Team schedules will consist of four matches against division opponents, two at home and two away fixtures, as well as four remaining games against regional or cross-confernece opponents.
The Oklahoma City players have already reported back to training, with preseason friendlies against the Austin FC and FC Dallas of the MLS, announced for March 19 and March 20 respectively.