April 26, 2014

Orlando drops Energy in sold-out home opener

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star

OKLAHOMA CITY — A sea of green greeted Energy FC for their first home game in Oklahoma of their inaugural USL PRO season.

Far from lonely – the game was sold out – it was indeed empty as they fell 2-1 to defending league champions Orlando City FC on Saturday. A consolation goal from Steven Perry, playing on the very Pribil Stadium he graced as a high school player at Bishop McGuinness, brought an eruption of applause, though it fell short of any comeback.

Wind at their backs translated to momentum for the champions, who looked the more dangerous going forward. Molino and Chin’s partnership led to the first real chance, the former touching it to the latter for a shot well saved by a busy Jon Kempin in the Energy goal.

He saved four in the first half alone, one of those coming on the Orlando City goal 26 minutes into the game. Anthony Pulis’ corner found the head of Adama Mbenque, but Kempin got a palm to the right-corner bound shot. Chin seized the loose ball and powered in a shot as the keeper was still recovering.

Things calmed way down after the goal, with wind wreaking havoc on both teams for different reasons. With support from the midfield, wingers Adda Dzejiri and Peabo Doue occasionally found the freedom to tuck inside and cause trouble.

But it wasn’t enough to support Kyle Greig up top, leading to a few halftime changes – Philip Lund for Doue and Edmond’s own Steven Perry for midfielder Nate Shiffman – in hopes of getting the attack going.

It was all for not just over 10 minutes later. Orlando’s second goal took less invention, more good fortune as Molino was aware enough to watch Mark Howard’s pass to Kempin in the OKC goal fall short of its target. He swooped in during the confusion, meeting the ball at the same time as Kempin initially before putting the rebound into an empty net.

That killed any potential momentum for the Energy, who spent most of the second half adjusting to the wind at their backs and the change in formation. Orlando looked to catch the Energy on a counter, as more bodies were pushed forward.

Loan signing Kevin Ellis was a spark in the dark for Energy FC, with well-timed runs down the left flank from the defense that put the attack into action. Outlets for goals were hard to find, but he provided a source that can’t be forgotten for future reference.

The goal was basic route one for Perry, a long ball from the OKC half that he beat the entire Orlando back line before providing the crucial touch, lifting the ball over the on rushing Miguel Gallardo. Green shirts erupted in the home stand behind the goal, perhaps still aware it all came too late.