Energy FC returns to play in scrimmage against Sporting KC II ahead of match with FC Tulsa
Interstate professional sports returned to the state on Friday afternoon, as Energy FC took on Sporting Kansas City II in a scrimmage.
The Energy played two 45-minute scrimmages at their practice facility. It was the first time the team had competed against another USL squad since March 7, which was a loss. The first half was scoreless on both sides, but the Energy won the second half, 1-0, behind a goal from forward Jaime Chavez.
The USL suspended its season in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the team returned to the field for practice in May.
“There’s excitement in finally getting to play another team,” Energy defender Kyle Hyland said. “We’ve only had three weeks of team training, so you have a little rust in the final decisions and final passes that are almost coming off, but there’s not the fine-tuned results that you typically have.”
Hyland and other Energy players said they felt rusty due to the extended break, but it wasn’t just a difficulty in threading the needle on passes or hitting shots with enough power that was different.
The team had been practicing by working on schematics, fitness and skills, among other concepts in recent weeks. However, Friday’s scrimmage presented a challenge they haven’t been faced with since March: physicality.
“Guys could play soccer by training, doing physical work or technical work, but you weren’t competing. It wasn’t me against you, it was just guys and a ball,” Energy coach John Pascarella said. “Today they were competing, so they forgot how to do that a little bit, but it was slowly but surely coming back. You could see that they had enough fight in them and they were disciplined to not let it boil over.”
While the Energy are back to some semblance of normal with practices, scrimmages and 15 regular-season games on their schedule, they still have to deal with changes due to the pandemic.
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Pascarella said the USL mandated team’s to keep themselves in a bubble of about 40 people in their facility in order to maintain safety. When players leave the facility, they’re encouraged to physically distance, wear masks and wash their hands often.
“It’s going to come from self-policing outside of the field,” Hyland said. “Obviously with a lot of it, we have to stay safe outside of the field and that’s what I think is most important. As long as we’re being smart and taking the proper precautions while we’re here, that’s all we can do.”
Pascarella said the team seems to be doing a good job in maintaining their safety outside of the team’s bubble in large part to veteran leadership on the squad.
“It’s also good that they’re self-policing in terms of the culture, and that’s what I’ve noticed from the older guys,” Pascarella said. “Those guys know how to create an environment in the locker room, police it and make sure it's peer pressure, not coach pressure, keeping them in line.”
The Energy’s first game will be against FC Tulsa on Monday, July 13, on ESPN2.
“To play that match against them at this time when everybody is ready to see soccer again and all the players are ready to play, it’s the best way to start,” Pascarella said. “... We’re going to go out there and focus on the way we want to play and our objectives.”