Match Day 16 will see San Antonio FC back home for a special July 4th holiday matchup with Oklahoma City Energy for their first of two regular-season meetings this year – both happening this month. We caught up with Tyler Vaughn from Off Pitch Podcast (@offpitchpodcast) to get his views on OKC’s 2018 season so far. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) It has been awhile! When we last saw you guys, Y’all were busy eliminating us from the 2017 USL playoffs via a PK shootout. What has changed roster-wise for OKC since then?
(TV) Tons! In addition to an entirely new coaching staff, about half of the squad is new as well. CJ Cochran, our keeper on that night, has since joined Nashville and is now on loan at Fresno, but we added another quality keeper in Matt VanOekel to replace him. Jose Angulo, our leading scorer from last year, is no longer with the team, but we’ve added some great attacking options with the arrivals of Jaime Siaj, Kalif Alhassan, and Christian Volesky, as well as FC Dallas loanees Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi. We also recently signed a center back Drew Beckie, formerly of Jacksonville, who has really been immense in his short time with the club.
- 2 – Most of 2018 has been a big struggle for OKC so far – although things are looking better recently. In your estimation, what is the biggest reason for such a drastic fall in the standings from 2017 to 2018?
I think a bit of a transition is to be expected when you replace half the squad and the coaching staff. The new style of play has probably been the main reason for the adjustment period, however. Coach Cooke likes to keep position and build up through the midfield. Jimmy’s teams tended to be more defensive-minded, constantly absorbing pressure and looking to hit on the counter – sometimes bypassing the midfield altogether. Things have picked up recently though. At the time of writing, we’ve won three matches in a row and are playing our best football of the season.
- 3 – Fans here will definitely be interested to know more about Christian Ibeagha, brother to former SAFC defender Sebastien. Tell us more about him as a player and how his season has progressed.
Christian is fantastic. We heard good things about him once we signed him, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s physical, smart and has an eye for goal, having already scored twice this season! Even though we’ve given up more goals than we’d like, no one has placed any blame on him. A lack of a consistent center back partner hasn’t helped any, but with the arrival of Drew Beckie, we expect the goals for our opponents to be few and far between going forward. He’s also a natural leader. Our captain, Juan Pablo Guzman, has been sidelined for a couple of months, and Christian has been wearing the armband just about every match since.
- 4 – OKC is near the bottom of offensive production in all of USL. Only 12 goals through 15 matches as of this writing. But things have looked a lot better recently in a run of consecutive wins. If there’s hope for a consistently improved offense for the remainder of this season, where will it come from?
It’s hard to say if there is just one player that will carry the load similar to what Angulo did for us last year. Alex Dixon has been a consistent threat for us, but Jaime Siaj has really turned it on since returning from his debut with the Jordan national team. He scored a goal in their win against Cyprus, and his confidence has only grown from there. Christian Volesky has given us a different look as well with his brilliant hold up play and clever runs in behind the defense. We haven’t seen much of Kalif Alhassan so far as he’s been gaining match fitness, but what we have seen has been brilliant. He’s got talent that not many players in the league can match. Same for Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi from FC Dallas. They started off really well for us then had a bit of an injury spell, but are back and looking dangerous again. Hopefully not too dangerous to where FC Dallas won’t let us hang onto them for a bit longer!
- 5 – Oddly enough, San Antonio FC has never defeated OKC Energy. The only team in USL West that SAFC has never beaten. Is that streak finally coming to an end? What’s your prediction for the match?
Well, we’ve only drawn once this year, so I’d bet against us getting a point! I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner and will be on a three-match win streak when we come to your place! And hopefully, you all and some others will drop points before then to open the door a bit for us to sneak into the playoff spots. I think it will be a tight one, but we’ll nick a late winner – 2-1 to OKC.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about OKC Energy.
Our supporter culture has changed a lot recently. In the past, we had just one group, the Grid. Then Furia Verde, our mostly-Hispanic group, came along a couple of years ago. This year, we had three new groups join the newly-formed “46”. The 46 is a collection of all the groups and all of them stand as one in our north stand. The name comes from Oklahoma being the 46 state to join the Union. One of the new ones, the Main Street Greens, is an LGBTQ (and allies) supporters group and the first of its kind in Oklahoma. They also have some sweet merch that you should check out! @MainStGreens on twitter.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L W W L D, 2018 Home Record 3-2-2
OKC Energy – L L W W W, 2018 Road Record 1-1-4
San Antonio FC: 21 points, GF 15, GA 16, GD – 1, 11th in USL West
OKC Energy: 16 points, GF 13, GA 24, GD – 11, 13th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
Wednesday will mark the eighth time these two teams have met. In six previous USL regular season matches, these two teams have drawn five times, and SAFC lost once, at Toyota Field in May 2016. OKC also defeated SAFC in the USL playoffs last year. San Antonio FC has never defeated OKC Energy in any competition. All-time, OKC has the edge. The series stands at 0-5-2. This will be the first time that the two regional rivals do not meet three times in USL regular season play.
7/4/18 @ SA
7/28/18 @ OKC
Most fans will barely want to remember this one. In their second ever playoff match, SAFC was unceremoniously bounced from the post-season in PK’s. Things got off to a very positive start for SAFC when Cesar Elizondo tallied in the 7th minute. But Wojcik equalized in the second half for OKC, and the rest is history. After a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes, OKC took it in penalties by a 4-1 margin.
If you can bear to watch them again, here are the highlights.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
OKC Energy (5-1-10) at San Antonio FC (5-6-4) #SAvOKC
Toyota Field, Wednesday, July 4th
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
San Antonio will no doubt feel like enacting some revenge on the team that ended their 2017 playoff run in heartbreaking style. Until three weeks ago, we would have said this matchup favored SAFC in a big way, which is something that we haven’t been able to say much this season. But we’re not even sure that sentiment holds true, now that OKC has reeled off three straight victories while SAFC has stumbled to one point in their last two games.
OKC had a very ugly start to the season, only winning twice in their first 13 games, and losing ten. Since then they have caught fire and have won three straight, including winning their first road match of the season a couple weeks ago in Portland. They’ve been slowly climbing the USL West table and they have a chance to close the gap between another team in front of them, in SAFC. As if all of that wasn’t enough, they will also be well rested, having not played since June 23rd. Meanwhile, San Antonio will be coming off a short week and a road match to boot. One that saw a match with a delayed start due to inclement weather. And once it got going, it wasn’t much better as it was played-out in less than ideal conditions on a field filled with excess water and a sharp wind in the air. Toyota Field never looked so good.
Just a few weeks ago, OKC was the worst scoring offense in all of USL. Not anymore. Led by Christian Volesky and Jamie Siaj who both lead the team with three goals, the offense has finally come to life in the month of June. And suddenly a team that looked destined for the bottom three in USL West this season now finds themselves on the verge of possibly challenging for a playoff spot as we near the midseason mark. How quickly fortunes can change when you can bank 9 points out of 9. Their goal differential of minus eleven remains one of the worst in USL West, however.
On the San Antonio side, it’s the same old story. The offense looks mostly lost and the defense, while sturdy, can’t hold teams off when the scoring isn’t there to support them consistently. Lopez’s two goals in two games to start the year are a distant memory. He hasn’t scored in USL play since March 24th. Gordon scored in three straight matches, followed by three without a goal. Bruce scored against Portland. He hasn’t even played since. Guzman is finally healthy but may need some time to get his legs back before he can be counted on again. The Forwards as a unit have only accounted for four total goals on the season. It just isn’t enough. And there are no easy answers to fix it.
Things would have been much more dire for SAFC if not for the heroics against T2 (offensively), Sacramento (defensively) and Colorado (Rafa’s PK specialty). As it stands, San Antonio remains in striking distance of a playoff berth mainly because the teams beneath them are REALLY bad. San Antonio keeps daring teams to jump them, but they can’t take advantage. With half a season to go, there’s still ample time for San Antonio to pull their own “OKC move” up the table and get on a winning streak. But that statement has an expiration date, and that date is drawing closer every day.
SAFC hasn’t looked great lately, and they are starting to come down to Earth at home a little bit too. Even their most recent two victories have felt more like sighs of relief than stellar performances. But it also feels like there might be some holiday magic in the air for this one. SAFC will be wearing a third kit for the first time ever. Seems like a good time to beat OKC for the first time ever, too. It won’t be pretty, but we think they’ll eek it out. There may or may not be on-field fireworks, but there will definitely be post-game fireworks. That’s enough of an omen for us. San Antonio rings in America’s birthday with a win.
San Antonio FC – 1
OKC Energy – 0
SAFC “Did You Know?”
In seven all-time meetings, all competitions, SAFC has never scored more than 1 goal vs OKC Energy.