Energy FC loses to Arizona 2-1

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Energy FC's Adda Djeziri tries to avoid a hold by an LA Galaxy II player during first half action Saturday night.
Oklahoma City defender Gareth Evans gives Galaxy's Chandler Hoffman a shove in the back as he competes for a header.
Energy FC forward Kyle Greig tries to play the ball despite the defensive pressure of LA's Jaime Villarreal.
Oklahoma City's Dan Delgado is upended as teammate Nate Polak looks on.
Energy FC defender Kyle Miller and Galaxy midfielder Bradford Jamieson IV compete for the ball.
Energy FC forward Adda Djeziri and LA Galaxy defender Lee Nishanian race for the ball during first half action Saturday night at Pribil Stadium.

Energy FC loses to Arizona 2-1

By Tim Farley

Another lackluster first-half performance by Oklahoma City Energy FC was all LA Galaxy II needed to post a 1-0 win Saturday night at Pribil Stadium.

Energy FC (8-11-5) dropped its third consecutive game while losing by one goal, which is a frustrating situation for head coach Jimmy Nielsen and his players. Yet, it’s the slow starts and apparent lack of focus that has the first-year coach perplexed and confused.

“We’re missing the fire in the eye,” Nielsen said. “I saw it in the final 15 minutes, but not from the beginning. We started too slow again. I blame myself for that lack of fire. I’m disappointed in the guys and with myself. You have to look inside yourself and ask ‘what can I do to make the team better?’ The first 45 minutes today was not good enough.”

Evidence of Energy FC’s lackluster performance was on the first-half box score, which showed only two shots on goal compared to five for the Galaxy. Yet, one of those shots found the back of the Oklahoma City net in the 19th minute when Daniel Steres scored off a corner kick by Andre Auras. The ball bounced to Steres, who was not defended at the right post, allowing him to tap it in for yet another early goal by an Energy FC opponent.

Arizona, which defeated Oklahoma City Thursday night, scored its first goal in the fourth minute of play and won, 2-1.
Nielsen blames part of the slow starts on a possible playoff appearance in the team’s first year in Oklahoma City. However, that needs to stop now, he said.

“We need to put all that playoff talk behind us,” the coach said. “Some of the players’ attitude is ‘if we don’t win tonight, we can win the next game.’”

Oklahoma City currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot with 29 points, but that could change quickly. Energy has four regular-season games remaining with three on the road. Two of those games are at Arizona on Aug. 22 and at Orange County Sept. 6 in the season finale. Both Arizona and Orange County are tied for ninth place with 27 points.

Energy FC also trails sixth-place Charleston, which visits Oklahoma City Aug. 24, by three points in the current standings.

Game action

An unusual occurrence came in the 78th minute when Oklahoma City goalkeeper Samir Badr pulled an injured Galaxy player off the field by his feet. The player was lying along the west sideline when Badr ran over and dragged him a few feet off the field so play could resume as Oklahoma City was fighting to tie the score.

Badr’s action caused a scuffle among the two teams and resulted in a yellow card for the Oklahoma City keeper. After the game, Badr tried to explain what he did.

“I just wanted to get on with the game,” he said. “He (injured player) was on the sideline, and then made it a point to come back on the field. I was not trying to be funny, but was trying to help him off (the field) so he could get treated.”

Nielsen said he didn’t see Badr drag the player off the field, but made stern assurances there would not be a repeat performance.

“Trust me, he will not do that again while he plays here,” said Nielsen, who was a keeper during his all-star career in Europe and Major League Soccer.

Formation change

A switch to a new formation with four forwards didn’t produce the results Nielsen had hoped for.

“I’m not the biggest fan of the 4-4-2, but we wanted to be more aggressive and get some numbers (players) up front. We didn’t succeed with that either,” he said.

Oklahoma City’s play improved in the second half with seven shots on goal, including two during stoppage play as the team was trying to pull off some last-minute heroics.

“We’re trying to do the right things, but it’s not working for us right now,” said defender Gareth Evans.
Midfielder Nate Shiffman said Energy players were not consistent with their offensive decisions.

“We have to be more purposeful with our possessions,” he said. “If we hit it long, we need to be on the same page. We weren’t doing that tonight.”

Oklahoma City returns to action Friday at Arizona in a key matchup. Energy FC comes home Sunday for its final game at Pribil Stadium against Charleston. The team’s last two regular season games are on the road at Sacramento Sept. 4 and at Orange County Sept. 6.

GAME NOTES: Team captain and starting midfielder Michael Thomas was scratched from Saturday’s lineup due to an ankle injury…Sixteen fouls were called in the OKC-LA game with nine against the Galaxy and seven against Energy FC…Six yellow cards were issued, four against Galaxy and two against Energy FC. Galaxy player Bradley Diallo was ejected in the 90th minute after receiving his second yellow card of the game.

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