Phoenix Rising FC will travel to Taft Stadium to play OKC Energy FC this Saturday, June 22, 2019. It is the first USL Championship match-up of the year between the two Western Conference playoff contenders. Phoenix comes into the game with 29 points, currently top of the table in the conference, while OKC is currently in 7th, holding the 2nd to last playoff position, as of this article. With 22 points, OKC is in playoff position by just 2 points, and with 16 games played, many of the teams behind them have a game in hand. OKC's 22 goals scored and 22 goals allowed seem to point to this being a mediocre club that will struggle to make the postseason. In fact, Phoenix's league leading +23 goal differential is one more than OKC's goal total for the season.
These two clubs have been in the USL together for longer than most clubs, and are familiar opponents. The way that Phoenix has been playing recently, just about anyone they play is going to look overmatched on paper. OKC looks to be a solidly mid-table team that Phoenix should dispatch of easily on most nights. However, in addition to having the home pitch, Oklahoma City also has the advantage of much fresher legs coming into the match. Phoenix is playing their last in a stretch of 3 game in 7 days, and have just 3 days rest after playing at Reno 1868 FC on Tuesday. OKC Energy on the other hand have not played since last Saturday, a 1-1 draw at home against San Antonio FC.
OKC Energy vs Phoenix Rising Vital Information
Referee assignments have referee Elvis Osmanovic at center pitch, with Matt Trotter and Ryan Cook as the assistants, and Roy Robinson will be the 4th official.
This will be the 13th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and OKC Energy FC. In the previous 12 meetings, Phoenix has won 6 times, OKC Energy has won 4 times, and there has been 2 draws. It was a Phoenix victory in the most recent of those, 3-0, at OKC, back on May 9, 2018. Last season Phoenix dominated both matches between the two clubs, winning both by an aggregate score of 7-1.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Part of this is borrowed from our Tweet from the other night, but it bears repeating. Zac Lubin has been an absolute wall since taking over the starting job for Phoenix. 3 consecutive clean sheets, 8 on the season now. 330 minutes with no goals allowed. He is stopping 84% of the shots he is seeing this season. Perhaps even more impressive is that his 12 games played are now twice as many as his 6 goals allowed!
Energy FC have the most call-ups to the CONCACAF Gold Cup of any team in the USL Championship. They will be missing midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica), and three players from Trinidad and Tobago, forward Cordell Cato, and defenders Alvin Jones and Mekeil Williams. Phoenix Rising continue to miss key players due to the Gold Cup as well, as they continue to be without Jamaican winger Junior Flemmings, and midfielder Kevon Lambert.
Oklahoma City is lead in scoring by Jamaican striker DeShorn Brown, who luckily for Energy FC, was not called up to the Gold Cup. His team leading 8 goals in 12 games are impressive but he appears to be a very one dimensional player, having yet to record an assist this year. Perhaps more telling is that he has completed just 2 key passes all year. Passing is not his job, but it makes things easier on the defense if they know a guy is never looking to pass the ball. By comparison, Phoenix's furthest man forward Adam Jahn does just enough passing to keep defenses honest, and has 2 assists and 9 key passes this season to show for it.
Phoenix was a team that lost a lot of scoring punch from last season when leading scorer Chris Cortez went to Thailand, and Didier Drogba retired. They responded by signing a number of attacking players to not only replace the departed duo, but also to add depth to their roster overall. The most notable of the signings, Jahn and Flemmings, have responded in spades in regards to the large shoes they had to fill, and have combined for 17 goals and 7 assists between them this season. What may be even more impressive though is the depth they appear to have added. Joey Calistri has been called upon to fill the void left while Flemmings is at the Gold Cup, he appears game to do so, having scored a goal in each of the last 2 matches.
OKC has recently, reacquired journeyman Welsh forward Jonathan Brown, who played with them last season from Hartford Athletic. The coaching staff is very high on Brown, and it appears they are counting on him to bolster a roster depleted by the Gold Cup. Brown is an experience player with a Cardiff academy pedigree. However, he has just 1 goal and 2 assists in 37 appearances in the USL over the past 2 seasons.
OKC Energy vs Phoenix Rising Prediction
How can you reasonably pick against Phoenix right now? This is a team that has scored 13 goals since the last time they allowed a goal! That is over a stretch of 335 minutes. That being said, 3 games in 7 days is a tall task for any team, especially one who's depth has been weakened by Gold Cup obligations. OKC is by no means a good team, but they are solidly mid-table and are just the type of team that will pull an upset if given the opportunity. They have also recently been boosted offensively by the return of Brown, but I question how much of a boost that actually is, and OKC is even more depleted Gold Cup wise than Phoenix. At some point the winning streak will come to an end because they USL is just too competitive a league to expect that a team would run the table. That being said, I don't see the streak ending this Saturday because OKC is a less talented team than either of the teams that Phoenix has already beaten 3-0 in the past week. Threes are wild, so I'll let it ride and call for a third result in-a-row of 3-0.
Prediction: Phoenix Rising 3 OKC Energy 0