It was the Sacramento Republic who came out on top Tuesday night as they grabbed three away points against the Oklahoma City Energy FC. The match was an exciting spectacle for fans to watch, however, goals were few as Sacramento'sJames Kiffe was the only player to convert a chance.
Making their debuts for the OKC Energy was defender Devante DuBose, who was recently called-up from the Energy's successful U23 team, and Swedish international Linus Olsson, who signed with OKC last week from Danish second division club Akademisk Boldklub.
In addition, making his return to Oklahoma City following his departure to Sacramento earlier this season was goalkeeper Evan Newton. The 28-year-old goalkeeper started in net for the Republic, embracing the loud boos from former provoked fans.
FC Dallas loanees Timo Pitter and Colin Bonner started on the bench but were eventually subbed on early in the second half.
As the match began, both clubs looked calm and relaxed, controlling possession and making the right decisions. As the game progressed both clubs began to knock at each others' heels, causing the referee to intervene a bit. Early on, both Western Conference sides had a few wide open chances to convert, however, none were finished. As halftime approached, the scored remained 0-0, causing both clubs to head into the locker room with their heads' down.
At half time, the two FC Dallas loanees began to warm up, suggesting an imminent sub would take place.
As the second half started, it was the OKC Energy who brought the effort and passion. Strong performances from Hendrick and Dalgaard had the Energy controlling the game early on in the half. The game began to intensify following a tackle-from-behind by Hyland on goalkeeper Newton, who was shielding the ball out on his side's corner. Hyland's tackle resulted in the match's first yellow card of the game.
Progression seemed to decrease from the clubs as both began to foul each other back and forth, resulting in poor play. However, in the 66' minute, Pitter entered the field, bringing life back into the Energy.
Early on Pitter looked lost but after a few minutes of settling into the game, he looked comfortable. The young midfielder displayed class dribbling as well as defensive awareness that led to a couple of chances for his side. In the 73', Jimmy Nielsen subbed Bonner in order to help bring a big man presence up top.
Energy FC did their best to rearrange and progress forward, however, in the 83' minute, a low cross into the box caused confusion amongst the OKC backline, giving a wide open shot to Kiffe, who laced it into the net, giving his club the 1-0 lead.
A penalty shout was given in the 88' as Danny Konig was tripped up in the box, but, the referee waved it off and ordered the teams to keep playing. The Energy subbed on reinforcements to help salvage a draw, nevertheless, it wasn't enough as the OKC Energy FC lost 1-0, ending their eight-match unbeaten streak.
Following the match, I had a chance to catch up wit head coach Jimmy Nielsen, Pitter and Bonner.
When speaking to Nielsen, he discussed what he was looking for when brought on the FC Dallas products.
"I expect them to come in with good energy and fresh legs. Come in and give everything they have and hopefully their fresh legs can make a difference."
Furthermore, both Pitter and Nielsen discussed the age old question as to where Pitter best suits himself on the field. Nielsen commented:
"I would no doubt think he is good on the left wing and the right wing, when he played on the left he got some amazing services into the box. When he plays on the right he can cut in their and be very dangerous. He is a very intelligent player as well, at the same time, he has a big heart and you can get a lot from that. "
Pitter added, "I am used to playing on the right midfield side and that's what I used to play in the last three of so years."
Last, both Pitter and Bonner discussed their time in OKC, highlighting how it has benefited their careers as well as given them a chance to grow as professionals.
"The most important philosophically is to get the game experience, to get the minutes experience, fitness, and game time. That's why it is good that I am here. Hopefully, it can transfer to Dallas," quoted Timo.
Bonner added, "Coming here and getting minutes and playing with these guys is a great opportunity. They play at a very high level and will just try to translate that over to FC Dallas."