• Ryan Chapman

OKC Rues Missed Chances in Front of Goal, Settles for Draw with Memphis

OKLAHOMA CITY — A lack of composure in front of goal continues to haunt the Oklahoma City Energy.

Returning home after a midweek loss to the Birmingham Legion, the Energy squandered a few golden chances to score, settling for a 0-0 draw with Memphis 901 FC at Taft Stadium on Saturday night.

Playing their second straight game with forward Frank Lopez back on the staring line up, OKC nearly got off to a dream start. Slicing their way through the Memphis defense in the opening moments of the game, Lopez was set up on a centering ball from the goal line, but he was unable to steer the shot on frame.

The Cuban striker would have two more great chances to put his team in front in the first half.

Left back Rob Coronado picked out Lopez in the 25th minute on an inch-perfect cross from the touch line, but the forward fired the ball well over the goal.

“(Lopez) is a little asshole to play against,” OKC goal keeper C.J. Cochran said after the match. “Defenders probably hate playing against the guy. He’s always in and around, getting a little chip in, getting the ball, running in behind. He’s just all over the place.

“And that’s good for us. When Jaime and Frank together are doing well, I mean those two guys are some of the best finishers in the league. So getting them back healthy is good for us.”

However, Lopez isn’t firing on all cylinders quite yet.

Nearly 15 minutes later, Lopez would again return to torment Memphis’ back line.

Picking the ball off the back line, Lopez surged into the box. But instead of picking out an unmarked Villyan Bijev toward the Memphis back post, he elected to try and beat goalkeeper John Berner at the near post himself.

Berner parried the shot, clearing the danger and maintaining the clean sheet.

Frank Lopez missed a trio of key chances in his second start for the Energy in 2021 (Photo by Stephen Cristy courtesy of Energy FC)

Just his third appearance as a whole in 2021, Energy head coach John Pascarella said Lopez will have to find his confidence again in front of goal.

“When you haven’t had a lot of minutes in you since preseason because you’re just kind of struggling back from an injury, it takes some time to get that rhythm and to get that feeling and to get that confidence in front of goal,” Pascarella said. “He’s getting that. He’s getting his mojo back, and so is (Jaime Chavez), and that’s good to see.

“The timing of that couldn’t be better.”

Rueing the lack of clinical finishing in front of goal, OKC captain Conor Donovan was called upon to save the draw in the 75th minute.

Recognizing the lack of a defensive presence at the back post, Donovan sprinted in to provide cover. Memphis midfielder Laurent Kissiedou fired a low drive toward the back post which beat C.J. Cochran, but Donovan was able to stick his foot in and clear the shot over the bar.

“That was just a natural reaction,” Donovan said after the match. “I kind of do it in small-sided a lot where I just kind of thing of the worst case scenario, and I was able to just get a good foot on it.”

Donovan’s save secured OKC’s first clean sheet of the season.

“In different phases we had to weather a little bit more of a storm and then sometimes we had the ball a little bit more, so from a cohesion standpoint it’s awesome,” Donovan said. “We’re getting those relationships even closer.

“We defense as a team. We have that principle to defend as a team, so the whole team deserves a shoutout for that.”

The Energy now hit the road for a midweek fixture on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City will matchup with the Indy Eleven for the first time in club history. Kickoff from IUPUI Michael A. Carrol Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, is slated for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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