Oklahoma City enters a critical stretch of its inaugural season in the United Soccer League Pro division on Thursday night with a road game against fellow expansion team Sacramento Republic at 9:30 p.m.
Energy FC has taken two of three from Sacramento, which sits in second place in the league standings. The home team has won all three meetings. For the free-falling Energy FC side though, Thursday is a must-win.
Energy FC needs to win its final two games of the season, plus hope for some help from some other teams, if it is to make the playoffs. OKC plays Orange County in Saturday’s finale
After losing its last five matches, Energy FC is in 12th place but isn’t eliminated from the postseason just yet. Rochester, Harrisburg and Wilmington are currently in sixth, seventh and eighth place respectively, but Energy FC could join the mix if the pieces fall together.
“I kind of hope that we would have been in a better position right now,” Jimmy Nielsen said. The Energy FC coach said after losing five matches in a row, a different result in one or two of those games could be the difference in making the playoffs or not.
Sacramento is pushing for the top spot in the league. Only six points behind first-place Orlando City, Sacramento could tie for first with two wins to close the season. And Sacramento has been scorching hot this summer.
After losing its first two meetings with Oklahoma City in June, Sacramento has only lost once, a 2-1 defeat at Richmond. Sacramento boasts an 8-1-2 record in July and August, the reason for catapulting to the top of the league. For a team with clear aspirations of becoming an MLS franchise, Sacramento won’t be letting up for the last weekend.
“Sacramento is a good team,” Nielsen said. “We got to be able to play with them as well. We can’t go there and just play defense. We have to take some chances too.”
Sacramento is led by midfielder Thomas Stewart, whose 11 goals are a team high. Rodrigo Lopez, who also plays midfielder, has nine goals himself and earned a spot on this week’s USLPRO Team of the Week.
Energy FC shut out Sacramento 2-0 in both contests in Oklahoma City, but two early miscues helped Sacramento to a 2-1 win last month. Energy FC will need more of what it did at home against Sacramento or else it will be home for good after this weekend.