Energy FC: Greens using rule change to their advantage
Energy FC had trailed Rio Grande Valley FC for nearly an hour when Frank Lopez entered the match on Wednesday night.
Fortunately for Oklahoma City’s forward, the International Football Association Board announced in May that teams are now allowed five substitutions in order to help with fatigue as soccer leagues returned from a lengthy absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. Normally, teams are allowed just three.
The rule change was extremely beneficial to the Greens in a 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley at Taft Stadium.
With just two minutes left in regulation, Lopez scored Oklahoma City’s lone goal when he shook off a defender and sent the ball straight into the crossbar. It took one bounce and landed inside the goal to tie it at 1-1.
Energy FC coach John Pascarella has long praised his roster top to bottom. It showed yet against Wednesday as the Greens yet again utilized the extra subs.
“I think our depth, the fact that we can make those five changes and not think twice about it, and be able to put quality players on where quality players are coming off, that’s a huge benefit to me,” Pascarella said.
Lopez subbed in for Jaime Chavez, who had scored a goal in two straight matches for Energy FC prior to Wednesday.
Lopez entered the match in the 61st minute of the contest against RGV, and the 78th against Austin Bold on July 17. Against the Bold, he had just enough time to assist Jose Hernandez for Oklahoma City’s third goal of the match.
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Putting the pressure on their opponent late in the game has started to become a trend for the Greens. The rule change has allowed them to put in fresh legs late in the game.
“It’s very advantageous for a team like us with a very deep squad,” OKC keeper C.J. Cochran said. “Especially late in the game, we can put a lot of pressure on teams. I think if there’s a consistent thing you’ve seen from us it’s probably late in the game that we’re the better of the teams for the last 10.”
The Greens even show depth at keeper. Cochran has started all four matches for Oklahoma City this season, and Cody Laurendi has started in 94 matches for the club since 2016. Pascarella has said both are more than capable to get the job done, and both will see the field plenty this season.
For defender Rafael Garcia, the new rotation is still taking some getting used to.
“I know the five-man sub is different than what we’re accustomed to,” Garcia said. “We’ve utilized a deep amount of guys, it’s definitely an advantage for us. We’re gonna keep taking advantage of that and hopefully at the end of the next game we’re able to score a few more.”
The Greens now look to New Mexico United on Saturday, Aug. 1. They sit atop Group D in the USL with four points and a 1-1-2 record.