Energy FC to meet 'storied' Tampa Bay Rowdies in U.S. Open Cup
Energy FC will face a "storied franchise" Tuesday night when Oklahoma City hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on the University of Oklahoma's John Crain Field in Norman.
Tampa Bay (7-0-5) is the only unbeaten team in the USL Championship and leads the Eastern Conference. Energy FC (5-4-3) is fifth in the Western Conference, but Tuesday night's game does not count in the league standings.
It will be the first meeting between the two clubs. Originally established in 1975, the Tampa Bay Rowdies joined the USL before the 2017 season. The winner of Tuesday's match moves on to the fourth round in the tournament and would likely face an MLS opponent.
Energy FC head coach Steve Cooke calls the Rowdies "a very storied franchise" and a club with great history. Cooke was already looking forward to playing Tampa Bay on Saturday night after Energy FC's 1-0 win over Colorado Springs in a regular season USL match at Taft Stadium.
"I can’t wait for Tuesday night." Cooke said immediately after Saturday night's victory. "Whenever you play a club with the history that Tampa has got, you are excited to play again.”
The U.S. Open Cup is the oldest soccer tournament in the country and features amateur and professional teams. Energy FC defeated NTX Rayados 3-1 on May 14 in its opening match in the tournament's second round.
"To measure ourselves against a club like (Tampa Bay) is going to be an amazing experience," Cooke said. "Right now they are the top team in the whole USL."
Energy FC mid-fielder Je-Vaughn Watson said the Greens welcome the challenge.
"As a professional player, you always want to play against good teams," he said.
The quick turnaround from Saturday night also will be physically challenging for players. Energy FC had light workouts the past two days, and Cooke hinted on Saturday night that his line-up might change because of the short week.
Coming off a win on Saturday, though, should make it easier for players to rebound from their aches and pains, he said.
"Whenever you win a game you feel a little bit better," Cooke said. "Suddenly the bumps and bruises don’t hurt quite as much as when you got three points.”
ENERGY FC VS. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
Where: John Crain Field, University of Oklahoma in Norman