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Energy FC looking to sharpen defense against Sacramento Republic FC

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Energy FC head coach Steve Cooke stands on the sidelines during a 1-0 win over LA Galaxy II at Taft Stadium on June 23. [Photo by Anya Magnuson, The Oklahoman]

Energy FC head coach Steve Cooke stands on the sidelines during a 1-0 win over LA Galaxy II at Taft Stadium on June 23. [Photo by Anya Magnuson, The Oklahoman]

Steve Cooke knows his team's defense must be ready for Sacramento.

The last time the Oklahoma City Energy FC took the field, they allowed four goals. That won't cut it Saturday night on the road against a surging Sacramento Republic FC squad.

“It's more about what we do collectively from a defensive standpoint,” said Cooke, the Energy's first-year coach. “If we do a good job of that, we'll always give ourselves a chance to get goals and win the game.”

Sacramento is fourth in the United Soccer League Western Conference standings at 10-5-6 after winning its last two games.

OKC is 12th in the standings at 6-10-3, but has recently hit its stride.

The Energy haven't lost a match since June 10 against the Seattle Sound Sounders 2.

OKC has gone 4-0-2 over the six-game stretch where the team's offense has been key.

In the first 13 games of the season, OKC only scored seven goals.

But over the last six games, the Greens have scored 14 times. Cooke said his team has been better defensively, allowing for more offensive possessions and that has boosted OKC's confidence.

“It's as much about a mentality as it is about what you actually do,” Cooke said. “It's more about how you do it and go about your game with more belief.”

OKC is coming off its highest-scoring game in team history. The Greens defeated the Las Vegas Lights 6-4 on July 11 behind two goals from Alex Dixon, who leads the team in goals (five) and assists (three).

Even if Dixon isn't scoring or assisting on a goal, his presence is felt and is opening space for his teammates.

“He's certainly been a key player for us recently,” Cooke said. “Not only in getting goals but creating opportunities for other people.”

Even though they're playing some of their best ball of the season, Cooke still sees room for improvement.

“I'm not a person who is ever satisfied with where we are,” Cooke said. “It's more about making certain that we attend to the daily commitment to excellence that we know we need to have if we're going to keep improving.”

ENERGY FC AT SACRAMENTO

•When: 10 p.m. Saturday

•Where: Papa Murphy's Park, Sacramento

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