So how hot is the OKC Energy FC, which plays Republic FC tonight at Bonney Field?
Oklahoma City (7-4-2, 23 points) has won five USL matches in a row, the longest winning streak this season in the 24-team league.
The streak began with its 2-1 win over Republic FC (7-6-1, 22 pts.) on May 23 in a match contested amid multiple stoppages because of thunderstorms in Oklahoma City. Sacramento played most of the match a man down after star midfielder Rodrigo Lopez was ejected in the ninth minute.
Since then Energy FC has beaten Austin, Portland, Vancouver and Tulsa by a combined 7-0 score. Evan Newton has manned the net during that span as the defense’s shutout streak stands at 388 minutes. Newton’s 0.91 goals against average is fourth in USL.
Sacramento, meanwhile, has struggled since that loss as Lopez, the team’s leading scorer, was forced to serve a three-match suspension.
Republic FC tied the last place Real Monarchs SLC 1-1 and lost to the Austin Aztex 1-0, both at Bonney Field, before rallying to beat Arizona United SC 2-1 last Saturday in Scottsdale.
But Lopez is expected to play tonight in the OKC rematch. He comes in with the chance to become the USL’s all-time assists leader. His 22 assists is tied with Kevin Molino, a two-time USL MVP with Orlando City SC, who moved up with his team into Major League Soccer.
The match has huge implications in an ever-tight Western Conference race.
The Los Angeles Galaxy II (8-5-1, 25 pts.), which Republic FC has beaten three times, moved into first place Friday night with a 3-0 win over the Orange County Blues.
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (8-5-0, 24 pts) moved into a tie for second with Energy FC by beating St Louis FC 1-0 also on Friday night.
The fourth-place Seattle Sounders FC 2 (7-4-2, 23 pts.) can move back into first place with a win tonight in Scottsdale against Arizona United SC.
But should Seattle lose or tie and Republic FC wins, Sacramento will be tied with the Galaxy II for first place.
Thompson gets his kicks – Reporters were surprised to see San Jose Earthquakes player Tommy Thompson on the team sheet for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match against Republic FC at Avaya Stadium.
They were even more surprised when ‘Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear inserted the former Granite Bay High School star into the lineup at the start of the second half.
Thompson had returned to San Jose on Monday afternoon after playing for the United States team on Sunday in the U-20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand.
Thompson played 105 minutes in the American’s 6-5 penalty kick shootout loss to Serbia in the semifinals.
Thompson told Kinnear he wanted to play against his hometown team despite the long flight and short time between matches.
Thompson played an energetic 75 minutes against Sacramento, the team he played nine matches on loan for last season. Thompson had two shots, including one on goal, before making one of San Jose’s PKs in their thrilling win over Republic FC.
It was a nice bonus for Thompson who didn’t get to participate in the PK shootout against Serbia. He subbed out in the 105th minute. The U.S.-Serbia matched ended 0-0 in regulation and extra time but the creative Thompson, making his first start for the U.S. in the tournament, was dangerous. He had a couple of near misses in front of the Serbian goal.
Wonderful Wondo – Unlike Republic FC, which played almost all of its top players, San Jose was able to rest most of its starters for this afternoon’s showdown at Western Conference leading Seattle.
But San Jose star Chris Wondolowski was in the starting lineup and played the entire 120 minutes, scored both ‘Quakes goals in regulation and buried his shot in the PK shootout win over Republic FC.
Lopez said it made sense. Without the U.S. Men’s National Team Player, Sacramento likely would have won.
“Mentality,” Lopez said. “They’ve got a guy like Wondo leading them. That guy never gave up. After we went ahead 2-0, I saw a couple of (their) guys putting their heads down. But Wondo being a leader and World Cup veteran never gave up.”
Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta could see why Wondolowski ranks seventh all-time in Major League Soccer with 101 goals.
“He’s a smart player,” Klimenta said. “He may not be the fastest or strongest but his movements are so deceiving.
“I remember guarding him in the second half and opening my body up to see where he was. I glanced at the ball real quick, then looked up to see where he was and he was no where to be found. All he needs is a split second of you looking away at the ball.”