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Energy FC Believes Fate is in Own Hands

By CHRIS HOCKMAN – chris.hockman@uslsoccer.com, 08/19/17, 10:31AM EDT

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Entering Saturday's clash with SAFC, Nielsen confident of third straight playoff berth


Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

OKLAHOMA CITY – Having played more matches than almost any team in the USL’s Western Conference, you could forgive OKC Energy FC for thinking it needed help to reach the USL Cup Playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Energy FC Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen thinks otherwise.

“I still believe with 10 games left everything is in our own hands,” said Nielsen this week. “We’re worried, and we’re concerned, but our focus is about us, and if we continue what we’ve done lately, I have a feeling we’re still in a good position.”

The first of those last 10 matches comes on Saturday as Energy FC welcomes second-place San Antonio FC to Taft Stadium, a major test by any measure. Nielsen sees it as the first of a series of cup finals, knowing that with any loss his side could drop out of postseason contention.

“We had some unnecessary losses, and lost some unnecessary points at the start of the season so we don’t have a lot to give from right now,” said Nielsen. “That’s why each of those games needs to be treated as a cup final, because you win a game, you’re in the playoffs, you lose a game, you’re out of the playoffs. From week to week, you’re in and you’re out, you’re up and you’re down, it’s, as usual, a very tight Western Conference.”


Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC

Energy FC’s current situation was epitomized in its last outing. With the club on a five-game undefeated streak – including back-to-back wins against Reno 1868 FC and Real Monarchs SLC – it was looking like Energy FC had begun to put some breathing room between itself and the playoff line. Instead, a disappointing loss to Black Gold Derby rival Tulsa Roughnecks FC last Saturday saw the club fall back into a very tight fight for the playoffs.

Despite the club’s first series loss to its in-state rival, Nielsen was upbeat about the match last week.

“I know it’s not the result we wanted but we played well,” said Nielsen. “We created a lot of chances and we made mistakes on their two goals. It was way too easy for them. You can win or lose games, apart from those [goals] we didn’t make major mistakes but they were such small mistakes leading up to both goals.”

Eliminating those mistakes against SAFC will be crucial. While San Antonio sits 26th in the USL in chance creation, and averages creating only seven chances per game, it is also sixth in conversion rate at 17 percent.

Add in the level of drama OKC’s prior battles with San Antonio have brought, including Miguel Gonzalez’s stoppage-time goal when the teams met in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Field in July, and Nielsen is expecting another strong test despite a recent dip in form from the Texas club.

“Last year, this year, we’ve played some very good, intense, close games with San Antonio,” said Nielsen. “They’ve done extremely well this year, you’ve got to give [SAFC Head Coach, Darren] Powell and his crew a lot of credit for the team they’ve put together this year. It’s a very good, and competitive, team.”


Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC

What could be a factor on Saturday night is OKC’s homefield advantage, with the side sitting at 7-2-1 at Taft Stadium this season. In addition to the previously mentioned wins against Reno and the Monarchs, Energy FC also boasts home wins against playoff contenders Sacramento Republic FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

“We’ve struggled on the road, but at home we’ve been pretty consistent,” said Nielsen. “It’s a pleasure to play at home, at Taft Stadium, in front of our home fans.”

Those fans will be loud as another chapter in the Oklahoma City-San Antonio rivalry is written at Taft Stadium on Saturday night.

They’ll be hoping their team’s performance is louder. 

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