Energy FC Downs Pittsburgh 2-0

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Energy FC midfielder Adda Djeziri pushes the ball upfield during Saturday's 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Pribil Stadium.
Oklahoma City goalkeeper Samir Badr leaps high to stop the ball.
Energy FC defender Gareth Evans clears the ball.
Oklahoma City forward Kyle Greig races toward the ball during first half action.
Defender Kyle Miller dribbles the ball out of the defensive zone.
Energy FC team captain Michael Thomas celebrates with teammates after scoring the game's first goal Saturday night. It was Thomas' third goal of the season.

Energy FC Downs Pittsburgh 2-0

By Tim Farley

Absent its No. 1 goalkeeper and a starting midfielder, Oklahoma City Energy FC shut out the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-0 Saturday night while pushing its unbeaten streak to seven consecutive games.

Energy FC keeper Jon Kempin and newly-acquired Mikey Lopez both were called up by parent team Kansas City Sporting FC of Major League Soccer. However, Energy FC’s No. 2 keeper Samir Badr didn’t let the pressure affect him while facing 13 Riverhound shots.

Badr gave credit for the shutout win to a tenacious defense that hounded Pittsburgh all night.

“We were defending as a unit and when we defend as a unit you get results like that,” he said.

Badr also said he has been working to start in goal long before Kempin was called up to Kansas City.

“Every opportunity I get I have to be prepared and that’s what I’ve been doing all year,” he said. “Whenever (head coach) Jimmy (Nielsen) calls on me I’ll be ready.”

The entire squad was ready Saturday night when Energy FC scored its two goals in the first 20 minutes of play with midfielder Adda Djeziri assisting on both.

Scoring early has proven to be a pathway to success for Oklahoma City, which is 5-1-1 when it scores first. The team also is 3-0-1 when leading at halftime, but 0-6-1 when trailing at halftime.

Team captain Michael Thomas, playing on the far post, scored on a header following a corner kick by Djeziri during the fifth minute. It was Thomas’ third goal of the season.

Energy FC’s set pieces have proven successful in the last two games with two goals off corner kicks.

“Me and MT try to work on it. It’s a great feeling when it works,” Djeziri said.

Fourteen minutes later, newly-acquired Dan Delgado took a pass from Djeziri, juked the Pittsburgh keeper and kicked the ball into an open net, giving Energy FC its 2-0 lead.

Apparently, Djeziri is enjoying his new-found role as team playmaker, notching his fourth and fifth assists of the season.

“That’s what I’m hoping for, but my teammates are making me look good, so it all goes out to the team,” he said.

The win improved Oklahoma City’s season record to 6-7-3 and pushed Energy FC into a two-way tie for sixth place in the 14-team United Soccer League Pro division. Energy FC has either won or tied its last seven games dating back to May 31. During that time, the team has allowed only three goals. The last goal scored against Energy FC occurred June 7 against Charlotte in a 1-1 draw. Since then, Oklahoma City has not allowed a goal in the last four matches.

Energy FC head coach Jimmy Nielsen said he’s happy with the unbeaten streak and Saturday’s 2-0 win.

“It’s important to come out strong. We had been out of action for a while so we needed to get into game rhythm. I was really pleased with how we started the game,” he said. “We had good possessions and we created good scoring chances. I was pleased with the defense. When you keep a clean sheet, you put yourself in a very good position. We defended with passion and pride.”

Oklahoma City had not played since its 2-0 win over Sacramento June 28.

On a critical note, Nielsen said Oklahoma City was forced to defend more than he would have preferred during the second half as Pittsburgh outshot Energy FC, 11-3. The Riverhounds outshot Oklahoma City for the game, 13-8.

“But they (Pittsburgh) didn’t have the ball in any dangerous positions,” Nielsen said.

Energy FC closes out its six-game home stand July 17 against Arizona United SC and July 19 against LA Galaxy II. Both matches are set for 7 p.m. All Energy FC games are broadcast live on 96.1 FM KXY and on YouTube Live (OKCEnergyFC).

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