Lost in the confusion of why Oklahoma City Energy FC’s match with Arizona United was called off early last Thursday was a moment Energy FC midfielder and team captain Michael Thomas had been eagerly awaiting for months. A shot at redemption.
Thomas missed a penalty kick against FC Dallas’ Reserve team in April and said after Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Arizona that he had been waiting and hoping for the chance to take another.
In the 88th minute on Thursday night, Thomas sent in a corner kick and Mark Howard headed it in for a goal. There was no celebration as the referee blew his whistle because an Arizona player committed a foul right in front of the net.
Thomas knew right away he had his shot.
Down 1-0 with the clock running out, Thomas stood in the rain staring down the goalkeeper. It took nearly two minutes for the referee to signal Thomas to take the kick due to plenty of extra-curricular activities between the two teams. But when the ref signaled Thomas, the 26-year-old native of Olathe, Kan., took his shot, sliding the ball to the right past a diving keeper.
Thomas equalized the match, extending Energy FC’s unbeaten streak to eight games and earned a spot on the United Soccer League Pro division Team of the Week. Now, with the streak over following a 1-0 loss to L.A. Galaxy II on Saturday, Thomas leads Energy FC into Harrisburg, Pa., in a crucial match with the City Islanders, who sit just two points behind Oklahoma City in the USL Pro table. The winner of Wednesday night’s contest takes over sole possession of eighth place.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of a six-point game to be honest. They’re right there with us in the table so they are going to be fighting as well. We’re going to get there and hopefully get at them right away. Stick to our game plan and get some goals, get another shut out and get three points.”
Harrisburg hasn’t lost a match since June 20, a 1-0 interleague contest with the MLS’ Montreal Impact Reserves. Having dug themselves out of the bottom of USL Pro as Energy FC did earlier this summer, Harrisburg will be more focused than ever on getting a win.
The City Islanders have 11 different players who have scored a goal this season and are led by Morgan Langley. The forward has five goals already this season to lead the team. But it will be the man in goal, Nicholas Noble, who will be looking to blank Energy FC.
Noble has three shutouts this season and 55 saves in 17 games played. An all-league selection last year, Noble has a team record 16 career shutouts.
However, Thomas doesn’t think he’s invincible.
“I know their goalie is very good,” Thomas said. “So we need to attack and get as many shots as we can because he’s a good goalkeeper. But if we take our chances we can get him.”
Thomas also said despite Energy FC having been at home since the first week in June, he thinks a road trip is just what the team needs to prove itself heading into the playoffs.
“We’ve been on a great run. At the same time it I think it’s good for us to get away and prove we can be just as good on the road as we are at home,” Thomas said. “If we go into the playoffs we’re most likely going to play an away game so we need to go in to places like this and expect to get three points.”