OKLAHOMA CITY — Frustration turned into elation in north Oklahoma City on Saturday as a late goal provided Energy FC with their first home win of the season, 1-0 over New York Red Bulls reserves.
Matched against Major League Soccer-caliber opposition, Energy FC provided a brave, attack-minded performance. Their liveliness was surprising, given they played 120 minutes against Arizona United on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup loss. Feelings after that game won’t live long in the memory.
Team captain Michael Thomas picked up a red card in that game, but this time he turned into the hero. Well into the three minutes of stoppage time, he headed in a Christian Duke corner at the far left post from point blank range. It was virtually the final touch of the game.
“It’s huge. I don’t think we’ve show the fans our best foot forward yet, but this was a huge step forward. The way it happened, too, was great. It’s one we’re hoping is the turning point of things to come.”
But by the time he turned home the winner, Thomas admits he should have already had a goal. His was the best chance of the first half. All the way from the right side of defense, Kyle Miller surged forward, skinning about three Red Bulls players before his shot from the top of the box was blocked.
Thomas hit the rebound first time, his shot edging the right post. Soon after that, David Leichty was in behind after a quickly taken free kick caught New York off guard. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stood his ground and snatched the ball away just before the winger could make a move.
Meara was one of several New York players that had previous MLS experience. Their back line had over 100 games of MLS under their collective belt, and Andre Akpan spent three years with Colorado Rapids before his trade to Red Bulls in 2013. He showed his ability in the opening minutes, laying a ball off to Michael Bustamante who sent a shot in from a tough angle just outside the left post.