By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 13, 2016
BRADENTON, Fla. – While OKC Energy FC fell 1-0 to New York City FC in its preseason opener on Friday afternoon at IMG Academy, Coach Jimmy Nielsen was a happy man following the game as his side put together a solid performance in its first game of 2016.
David Villa’s goal off a defensive breakdown proved the difference in the game to give the MLS side victory, but that aside, Energy FC looked solid at the back as it began to integrate some new pieces into the lineup.
“I think we played with a big discipline. I think we were well organized as a team,” Nielsen said. “Obviously we were up against a world-class team, and yes, they’ll create chances, and when they finally got their chances I think Cody Laurendi had an amazing game and made some very good saves.
“Overall I’m very pleased with the guys’ performance. In the first half we created a few good chances, so I think there’s a lot of positive stuff to go forward with.”
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Laurendi, an offseason arrival to mitigate the departure of Evan Newton to Sacramento, put in a strong performance that included a pair of big saves late in the second half. The first denied U.S. international Mix Diskerud as Laurendi moved across his goal well to deny a chance by the left post, and he also made a good diving stop on a penalty kick by Patrick Mullins in the final five minutes.
Another newcomer who impressed was Daniel Jackson, an offseason arrival from the Charlotte Independence, who used his pace to good effect down the right side. Luis Martinez, Evans Frimpong, Kyle Hyland and Tim Janssen also saw action, as Nielsen was pleased to see the way his side grew into the game.
“We created a few good chances, and with a little bit of luck we would have scored, but I think the guys worked extremely hard today,” he said. “I asked them before the game, it’s not enough you work hard as an individual, you have to work hard in your position and as a group, and I think the guys did a tremendous job there.”
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The new arrivals, combined with a strong returning group, appear to have created a versatile and deep squad for Energy FC as they look to improve on a season that saw the club finish second in the Western Conference’s regular-season standings, and reach the Western Conference Final of the 2015 USL Playoffs. That added depth will likely be important this year, as the league’s level of competition continues to grow.“We know the USL is developing very fast, and the soccer is on a very high level, and having a deep roster, that gives me the opportunity to play a little bit with the matchups, who we’re playing, who’s in form, who’s not in form, it’s a big pleasure for a coach,” Nielsen said. “I have 21 guys on the roster currently. I’m not afraid of throwing anyone in there.”