OKC Energy FC travel to Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, Arizona to play Phoenix Rising FC on Friday, October 18, 2019. It is the second and final USL Championship regular season match-up of the year between these two clubs, and is also the final regular season match for both clubs. Although they are still running away with the Western Conference and will be collecting their trophy for best regular season record in the league on Friday, they have stumbled a bit recently. Last Saturday, they were upset by Real Monarchs, which was their first home loss of the season. They are now just 1-1-2 over their past 4 matches, which comes after they had won their previous 21 matches, a league record. A bright spot for Phoenix recently however has been the play of Ben Spencer. After recording a brace in their previous match against Portland Timbers 2, Spencer came off the bench to record Phoenix's only goal in last week's 2-1 loss. In the final regular season match, against a team in OKC that has already been eliminated from postseason contention, and with their perfect 12-0-0 Dollar Beer Night record on the line, Phoenix will be looking to get back on track before the opening round of the playoffs.
As mentioned above, it has not been a great season for OKC Energy, and even if they were to win tonight they would still be well short of making the playoffs. They currently sit 15th in the table with 38 points, and have a -11 goal differential on the season. To put things into perspective, if you were to double OKC's 38 points total, it would equal 76, or just one more than the 75 the Phoenix has this season. Phoenix's +51 goal differential is 62 better than OKC's total making this every bit of a mismatch on paper. Throw in the Dollar Beer Night advantage and it brings to mind that meme of The Simpsons that says something along the the lines of stop, you killed him already. That being said, with the form Phoenix has been in recently, this could be just the kind of game they need to get back on track before the games that really count.
Phoenix Rising vs OKC Energy FC Vital Information
Referee assignments have the referee as Dejan Susak, with Seth Martin and Noah Kenyawani as the assistants, and Isaiah Vlad as the 4th official. On the discipline report, Kevon Lambert returns for Phoenix after a one-game-suspension for yellow card accumulation, and Corey Whelan's suspension for a direct red card last week was successfully appealed. However Phoenix Rising FC assistant coach Cory Robertson will be suspended for "irresponsible conduct in the technical area" last Saturday. For OKC Je-Vaughn Watson is under caution, will result in a one-game-suspension, however this is relatively inconsequential with it being that last game of the season.
This will be the 14th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and OKC Energy FC. In the previous 13 meetings, Phoenix has won 7 times, OKC Energy has won 4 times, and there has been 2 draws. Phoenix won the last match-up on June 22, 2019 by a 4-1 score at OKC. Phoenix has won the last 3 match-ups between the two clubs, with the last OKC victory coming on June 6, 2017, a 3-1 win at OKC.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Rarely do I say that a referee effected the outcome of a game, much less call one out by name, but if Malik Badawi never officiates another Phoenix Rising match, it will be too soon. In a league that is known for poor officiating, when supporters of multiple clubs know you by name, and think you are the worst, that really says something. To say that the penalty given to the Real Monarchs was an egregiously bad all is an understatement. That being said, even the poorest officiating is never an excuse for a loss. The deciding goal was scored on a play that goalkeeper Zac Lubin makes 99 out of 100 times, and that was just the 1 time. That is what it is. This game ultimately came down to what Arran Airs likes to talk about, which is too much possession, and too little end product. The way that Phoenix dominated the stats last Saturday, they easily should have scored 3 goals. If they had, we wouldn't be talking about a loss regardless of officiating.
OKC's struggles this season have primarily been on the offensive side of the ball. Their 44 goals scored are the 4th lowest total in the Western Conference. You can get away with an average offense if you have a great defense, but they don't have that either. Their 55 goals allowed this season put them right in the middle of the road defensively. They are lead in scoring by Deshorn Brown, who is a dangerous player with 14 goals scored to his name this year. Brown is without a doubt a legitimate striker, which is a piece that a lot of teams in this league are missing. The problem is that he is getting much help. Rafael Garcia is the club's second leading scorer with 6 goals, and Owayne Gordon and Christian Eissele have 5 apiece. However, beyond that, there are just 3 other players on the roster with 2 or more goals. The guy that the defense is going to keep an eye on though is Gordon, as he provides service to Brown from the right attacking midfield position, and has a team leading 7 assists to show for it.
This is the 6th and final Dollar Beer Night promotion (of the regular season) for the Phoenix Rising as mentioned above. It has been well documented that they are undefeated on Dollar Beer Night's and one would expect that during the playoffs that every night will be a Dollar Beer Night (as it was last season). Look for a high scoring second half it Phoenix Rising are shooting at the South End goal, as the now unified in chanting Bandidos and Red Fury will be well lubricated, and at maximum volume by that time. It is likely to be a long night for OKC goalkeeper, Cody Laurendi, as it has been a bit of a long season for him. Seeing that he has a pretty nice 67.5% save percentage, but has allowed 51 goals in 32 games, while facing 157 shots on target tells me that Laurendi has been better than the guys in front of him. Anytime you are putting your keeper in a position of facing over 5 shots per game, it is going to be tough to keep the sheets clean. That being said, Laurendi has 6 of them this year, which is not bad considering the shot totals he had to face. His most recent clean sheet was a 7 save effort against Sacramento Republic FC September 22, 2019.
Above a I mentioned a bit about too much possession with too little end product, and if you look at last week, at first glance it appears that Phoenix dominated. In some ways they did, with 59% possession, over 200 more completed passes, and more shots and corners won. However, the one glaring thing that jumps out to me is the stat that they didn't win, and that is shots on target. Not that 7 shots on target for Real Monarchs vs 6 shots on target for Phoenix is a huge difference, its how they got there. The Monarchs got 7 shots on target on just 11 attempts, while Phoenix took 24 attempts to get 6 on target. This tells me that right now Phoenix is maybe doing a little too much of taking that first shot that comes their way, as opposed to making the extra pass to get a really good scoring chance. Phoenix has plenty of sharp shooters who are capable of scoring from distance, but ultimately in football most goals are scored from inside the 18 yard box.
Taking a look at the betting line, the most interesting thing to see was going to be not if Phoenix was favored, but how much they were favored by. Last week, the only people who were more unhappy with Badawi than Phoenix Rising supporters, were the casinos who had to pay out more than 4 to 1 to folks who had bet Real Monarchs to win. Ultimately, Phoenix should be favored by more over OKC than they were over the Monarchs. Anything less than a 4 to 1 payout on OKC to win would have told me either something strange is in order tonight, or the books have lost confidence in Phoenix. That could not be further from the case though as a bet on OKC to win tonight will pay a whopping 7 to 1, while you will have to bet $10 to win $2 on the Phoenix Rising. Even a draw is paying out at a huge 4.5 to 1. In other words, the book makers think the Dollar Beer Night streak will roll on with ease tonight.
Phoenix Rising vs OKC Energy FC Prediction
Not much to say here, this is a statement game for Phoenix, OKC doesn't have the offense to outscore Phoenix, not the defense to shut them down. It's Dollar Beer Night, and the Phoenix Rising don't lose on Dollar Beer night. I think this one gets ugly late.
Prediction: Phoenix Rising - 5 OKC Energy FC - 1