Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Weird week, huh? It was one in which the recent body of work took precedent over the weekend’s results to lift OKC Energy FC to the top of the USL Power Rankings.
OKC’s 0-0 draw against Saint Louis FC wasn’t flashy, but if there’s one big thing Energy FC has going for it, it’s that it currently owns the league’s best defense. With only 13 goals against in 18 games this season, OKC isn’t what we saw last year with the Rochester Rhinos’ record-setting group, but it’s mighty difficult to get past a back four led by team minutes leaders Cyprian Hedrick and Coady Andrews, and then to beat goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, who sports a league-leading 0.69 goals-against average, and is third in the USL with a .796 save percentage.
As things stand, it’s quite possible that OKC could go one better than it did in the regular-season a year ago when it took second place in the Western Conference. The pursuit of Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 continues on Tuesday night in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 against Sacramento Republic FC, what should be a must-see as the battle for playoff position continues.
And while Coach Jimmy Nielsen would probably like to see a little more consistency in front of goal, there’s likely a great deal of pride for the goalkeeper in seeing how well his side is performing at the back, and the potential that will bring when the playoffs arrive.
Here’s the new Top 10.
1. OKC Energy FC (Previous: 2)
Last Week: D 0-0 at Saint Louis FC
Energy FC held a 5-3 shots on goal advantage at Saint Louis, which is somewhat impressive against a side that has been stout at home all season. A fifth shutout in the past six games kept the side moving forward with its eight-game undefeated streak, too, as it remained four points back of Vancouver with two games in hand on the Western Conference leader.
2. Charleston Battery (Previous: 6)
Last Week: D 1-1 at FC Cincinnati
Charleston’s excellent recent form, which has the side on a seven-game undefeated streak, didn’t allow it to jump past Cincinnati in the standings, but coming back on the road to earn a point in front of 19,229 fans at Nippert Stadium was another strong result. The Battery now head home after going 1-0-2 on the road against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference over the past four weeks, and will get the chance to boost their position on Wednesday night against Charlotte.
3. Richmond Kickers (Previous: 9)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Richmond’s four-game winning streak arrived in dramatic fashion, but the victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Saturday affirmed its current status as the team you don’t necessarily want to face right now. The Kickers could be in position to make a late run at the top four, and will get the chance to take a big step toward that with games against Rochester on Wednesday night and Montreal on Saturday.
4. FC Cincinnati (Previous: 4)
Last Week: D 1-1 vs. Charleston Battery
Cincinnati remained in solid position after Saturday’s draw with Charleston, but will have been disappointed to let its lead slip given the defeats suffered by Louisville and New York ahead of it as it tries to break into the top two. A midweek game against Montreal is up next, with the chance to put pressure on the top two with a victory on the road.
5. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (Previous: 8)
Last Week: D 1-1 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey and his nine-save performance can take most of the credit for this, although Brett Levis’ goal against the Switchbacks was an excellent piece of execution by both the fullback and Daniel Haber. Visiting Colorado Springs has been a tough task for most teams, and now WFC2 will get to a busy week that sees it visit Arizona on Wednesday night before hosting Cascadia rival, and recent form team, Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Sunday.
6. LA Galaxy II (Previous: 1)
Last Week: L 2-0 at Orange County Blues FC
The Galaxy II had their nine-game undefeated streak brought to an end by Orange County on Saturday night, although Los Dos will be disappointed they didn’t make more out of their possession. The lack of victories by teams around them in the top four mean LA is still in solid shape for a good finish, and it will host Portland this Saturday night aiming to get its attack back on track.
7. New York Red Bulls II (Previous: 3)
Last Week: L 2-1 at Richmond Kickers
Two defeats in a row, the second coming on a late goal in Richmond, might be a cause for concern for the Red Bulls II, but the side has the chance to rebound quickly on Tuesday night against Harrisburg and claim top spot in the Eastern Conference with a win. After the fast start the Red Bulls II made in Richmond, expect more of the same at FNB Field as New York looks to put the game away early.
8. Louisville City FC (Previous: 5)
Last Week: L 2-1 vs. Orlando City B
The manner of Louisville’s second consecutive defeat might have been disappointing to some, but City could have put the game out of doubt long before the conclusion, and ended up seeing their visitors outshoot them 7-5 by the end of the game. Friday night’s game in Pittsburgh brings an interesting matchup next, with the Riverhounds having claimed a draw on the road when these teams first met, and coming off the biggest offensive outburst of the season so far.
9. Swope Park Rangers (Previous: NR)
Last Week: W 2-1 vs. San Antonio FC
The Rangers got a big bump for their playoff hopes with the club’s first come-from-behind victory in its history. Next up, another game with massive playoff implications as Swope Park visits Saint Louis on Wednesday night. A win there, and the Rangers will be full steam ahead toward a place in the postseason.
10. Seattle Sounders FC 2 (Previous: 10)
Last Week: Bye
Inactive since this past week, Seattle gets the chance to push closer to the playoff positions tonight when it hosts Real Monarchs SLC at Starfire Stadium. S2 would move within a point of Saint Louis with a win, which would put even more pressure on both STLFC and Swope Park ahead of their meeting on Wednesday night.
Best of the Rest: Orlando City B, Charlotte Independence, Saint Louis FC, Rochester Rhinos, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC