OKC Energy FC: Tactical profile and opposition analysis

Match Analysis
Carlo Alessandro Valladares

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Carlo Alessandro Valladares

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The following two reports are post match and pre-match analysis for the OKC Energy FC. They’re currently in the Western Conference of the United Soccer League, a sanctioned Division II Professional League in the United States. 

It’s hard to define what a tactical analyst really is within a club. For some, you’re a video editor to aid with tactical profiling, and for others, you provide much more. For Example, Stevie Grieve, a Coach Development Manager at Burlington Bayhawks Youth Soccer Club, said what he looks for in a tactical analyst:

If I was looking for an analyst – film matches, provide evidence of our game model, look for ways to improve our methodology and provide data per match-team-player and create a highlights section for players to watch online.

Based on Grieve’s response, it is clear that a tactical analyst, at any level, can offer the head coach valuable insight into his own team and the opposition through a number of ways. He can alleviate the workload off the training ground and assist in improving the club’s weaknesses and approach.

However, for this article, we’ll focus on profiling your own club’s tactical model (Energy FC) and creating an opposition (LA Galaxy II) analysis report. Obviously, it should be noted that the analysis below is not an official OKC Energy FC report, but they have been looked at by the manager and they consider it to be the type of work they’d expect from a tactical analyst.

Note: To understand part 2, the opposition analysis of LA Galaxy II, you need to read Energy FC’s style and strategy model – part 1. 

Part 1 | OKC Energy FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks

Energy FC, according to their coach Jimmy Nielsen, has recently undergone a formation and system change. They went from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 (Hey, Antonio Conte, you made three at the back fashionable again).

Anyway, they defend in in 5-4-1/5-2-2-1 and attack in more of a 3-2-2-3 in possession. The slide below explains their defensive characteristics.

Energy FC tactics | high-pressing

Oklahoma are a team that will high-press, but I wouldn’t call them a high-pressing team. Against Colorado, they implemented it for the first 30 minutes using a man-orientated press with four or five players. It seemed the objective was to force Colorado to go long.

Energy FC tactics | mid and low-block defensive phases against Colorado Springs

In non-pressing defensive blocks, Oklahoma uses a 5-2-2-1. They’ll revert to a compact 5-4-1 to force the opponent out wide and then that usually triggers a 5-2-2-1 man-orientated press with their two CM/DMs shifting the ball side to cause a defensive overload.

Energy FC tactics | sideline counter-press against Colorado

Counter-pressing needs the right type of players and it usually works well with teams that spend most of the match with the ball, so they decide to spend their defensive energy winning the ball in their attacking-half when the opposition loses it.

However, a counter-attacking system needs players with good endurance and pace and can be a bit tricky when dealing with good ball-playing sides. So, at the lower-leagues, most coaches opt to only use it when a turnover takes place on the wings or half-space. Oklahoma show their double-mark/passing lane sideline counter-press below.

If I had to categorize Oklahoma’s attacking style, it would be possession-direct. Most of the possession is done by horizontal keep-away possession between the three CBs and two CM/DMs.

Those five players will look to keep the ball and constantly look for vertical options to the other five players in more advanced positions. At times, it very much operates in a 3-2-5 with wide CBs and at least one DM looking for direct long balls to the wingbacks. They are a very direct team. Watch below.

Energy FC attacking phases | direct play and wing-back importance in their 3-4-3 & 3-2-2-3 formation

In Energy’s system of attack, the wing-backs are the key to offering width and are often the main points of penalty area creation. The video below breaks everything down.

Energy FC attacking phases | how they build out the back and switch the play in certain phases

When Oklahoma are not looking for constant vertical passing options, they sometimes overload one side, draw the opponent in, and the opposite side wing-back cuts in centrally, parallel to one DM, and they’ll look to quickly switch sides. After that, Oklahoma’s three forwards start running forward in a very narrow shape while the wing-back looks to cross.

After that, Oklahoma’s three forwards start running forward in a very narrow shape while the wing-back looks to cross.

Energy FC tactics | direct style of play led to goals against Colorado

Against Colorado, the Energy’s direct style of attack led to some decent goals. I break it down below.

Energy FC attacking phases | rotation in transitional play to offer wing-back space against Colorado

In the modern game, transitions from defence and attack are growing more and more important to managers’ training curriculums. Why? Well, it’s growing harder and harder to score on defensive blocks when they’re safely able to set up. In transition, however, is when teams have less organized blocks, which means capitalizing on turnovers and counters are huge.

Below, you can see how Oklahoma use rotations against Colorado in their transition from defence to attack and how creating space for the wing-backs is very important.

Also, for more on rotation, check out Lee Scott’s tactical theory piece on it.

Final Score: OKC Energy FC 4 – 3 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Notes for the Manager:

– OKC Energy don’t  really like to build through the middle through short, quick passing.

– Most of their possession is done at the back with three centre-backs and two central/defensive midfielders.

– The 2nd half saw OKC Energy turn the ball over more and make poor clearances. That, combined with Colorado’s more aggressive and expansive approach in the 2nd, saw the Energy lose their grip with some penalties against them.

– Oklahoma are a very direct team that looks to create a lot of vertical options in both build up, transitional, and counter-attack phases.

*[Analyst commentary: So, to summarize, the report above was essentially something I put together to get a good understanding of OKC Energy FC’s tactical style and model to prepare for the opposition analysis of LA Galaxy II]*

Part 2 | LA Galaxy II opposition analysis

At the time of this writing, this opposition pre-match analysis was written for Energy FC’s July 30th match against the LA Galaxy II.

The following videos below detail all the weaknesses and strengths in LA Galaxy II’s style of play and how clubs like Reno 1868 FC, Tulsa Roughnecks FC, and Portland Timbers 2 got the better of them. With that said, the opposition analysis videos below are broken down in a way that instructs all the ways Oklahoma can exploit the Galaxy II and why.

Galaxy II exploitation | How Energy FC can use a similar 3-2-2-3 shape to hurt Galaxy low-block

Galaxy II exploitation | How to work around LA Galaxy II low-block

Galaxy II exploitation | weak counter-press against Reno and Galaxy high-press style

Galaxy II exploitation | Galaxy used a 4-5-1 against Tulsa and why Energy need to stick to their own strengths

Galaxy II exploitation | Galaxy poor at defending set-pieces

Galaxy II exploitation – Galaxy defend narrow and Reno make use of width and through-balls

Galaxy II exploitation | A decent non-pressing high-block option for Energy to use

Notes and Strategy for Manager:

  • Energy FC should seek to control the game. The best way to do this is a similar approach to how they faced Colorado Springs – possession-direct.
  • Possess the ball between your three CBs and two DM/CMs and look for vertical options to find good 1v1 for wing-backs to stretch out an already weak Galaxy II backline
  • Switch the play quickly, because there are often huge gaps in midfield when the Galaxy use their low-block 4-4-2. Once the play is switched, look for direct options of passing
  • Don’t get cute with the ball. Energy FC looked in control when they slowed down the play and built up and rotated for vertical long balls and options.
  • Be careful where the Energy FC are ambitious with their passing. The Galaxy II are decent at counters.
  • Don’t be afraid to launch plenty of crosses or play defensively.
  • As with many teams at this level, transitioning from attack to defence is difficult – Galaxy are poor at this.
  • Be careful about Tyler Turner when he’s coming down the right-wing or trying to link further up. He’s got good dribbling and pace. Don’t be afraid to use tactical fouls on him.
  • When transitioning from defence to attack, use those same forward/wing-back rotations you used against Colorado, the Galaxy struggle at defending wide through-balls!

Conclusion

More or less, this is what a post-match and pre-match would look like at the Second Division level of United States Professional Soccer. When it comes to these types of reports, it is sometimes the smallest of patterns and tactical details that can make the most difference.

Furthermore, it should be interesting to see if OKC Energy FC approach the match in the manner in which I mentioned in my analysis and manager notes.

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