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Energy FC: Early goal from Alvin Jones holds up in Greens' 1-0 win vs. Orange County

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Oklahoma City's Mekeil Williams (55), Callum Ross (4) and Alvin Jones (61) celebrate a goal by Jones in the first half of a 1-0 win against Orange County on Saturday at Taft Stadium. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City's Mekeil Williams (55), Callum Ross (4) and Alvin Jones (61) celebrate a goal by Jones in the first half of a 1-0 win against Orange County on Saturday at Taft Stadium. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

For the Oklahoma City Energy, it didn’t really matter how they won on Saturday night, so much that they did win for the first time in more than a month.

The Energy rode an improbable fourth-minute goal from Alvin Jones all the way to a 1-0 win over Orange County FC at Taft Stadium, giving Oklahoma City its first win since March 16 and some momentum heading into next Saturday’s Black Gold Derby on the road against the Tulsa Roughnecks.

“I’m just really, really pleased for the players, because I know the work they’ve been putting in,” Energy coach Steve Cook said. “They certainly felt aggrieved these last couple of weeks not to have got a win or two out of the last couple of games. I just really am so happy for the players to have come out tonight and have been pretty resolute in their work and really solid in their performance.”

Playing a fifth straight game without leading scorer Deshorn Brown, who’s been out with a knee injury, Oklahoma City (3-3-1) still managed to produce plenty of scoring opportunities while goalkeeper Cody Laurendi posted his first shutout of the soccer season, making five saves, four of those in dramatic fashion during stoppage time.

Orange County (2-3-2), the defending USL Western Conference regular-season champion, had its two-game winning streak snapped despite its late offensive flourish.

“In the second half, when you’re up 1-0, you’re going to have moments when you’re hanging on a little bit,” Cooke said. “For us to get out of here with a clean sheet, the first one of the season, is fantastic.”

The Energy caught a break early, when Jones took a free kick from about 35 yards out in the center of the field. He knuckleballed the kick, but it took a deflection — possibly off teammate Christian Eissele — and changed direction, leaving Orange County goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes with no chance for a save. It was the first goal with Oklahoma City for Jones, a member of Trinidad and Tobago’s national team.

“Whenever you shoot, and you’ve got someone like Alvin Jones who shoots the way he can, and people are in the way of it, you’re going to get those opportunities,” Cooke said. “If you kick it over the bar, you’ve got no chance. I think it’s less about fortune and more about Alvin striking it fantastic through a group of bodies, and sometimes that happens.”

With a strong wind at their backs, the Energy controlled the first half — outshooting Orange County 12-3 — and had a handful of other scoring chances. Cervantes’ lone save came when he stopped a strong shot from Alexy Bosetti from about 12 yards out in the 17th minute and an Orange County defender deflected a shot from outside the penalty box by Omar Gordon just wide in the 45th minute.

Oklahoma City nearly made it 2-0 in the 57th minute, as Cervantes came out to make a play against Omar Gordon and Gordon slid a pass to Eissele, but Eissele couldn’t get a foot on the pass to redirect it into the open goal and the ball slid out of bounds instead.

Laurendi parried away a shot from distance by Harry Forrester in the 62nd minute. In the 83rd minute, Aodhan Quinn’s shot from inside the penalty box took a deflection out of bounds and Orange County wanted a penalty kick, claiming it hit the hand of an Oklahoma City player, but instead was awarded a corner kick.

Orange County applied the pressure in the final minutes. Laurendi saved a shot out of a scramble in the six-yard box off the crossbar at the 90-minute mark and made three other saves on strong Orange County shots during the five extra minutes of stoppage time. Orange County also fired two shots wide of goal during that stretch, eventually outshooting Oklahoma City 20-15 for the game.

“You’ve got to keep a low heartbeat,” Laurendi said of his approach to the chaotic final minutes. “You can get excited and possibly make a mistake, but those are the moments when you kind of hone in. You don’t get too high in terms of the excitement level. You focus in. We put into the field what we’ve done all week, which is we’re under pressure, we’re dealing with shots and a ton of bodies in front of us.”

In the 67th minute, Orange County brought on Frankie Amaya, a U.S. under-20 national team member who was the No. 1 pick in this year’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft and is on a month-long loan from FC Cincinnati of MLS. The Energy mostly held him in check, limiting him to one shot.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City's Cordell Cato, middle, tries to keep the ball away from Orange County's Kevin Alston, left, and Darwin Jones on Saturday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City's Cordell Cato, middle, tries to keep the ball away from Orange County's Kevin Alston, left, and Darwin Jones on Saturday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5d1782ed68a58aec470e6efbf27b7612.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Cordell Cato, middle, tries to keep the ball away from Orange County's Kevin Alston, left, and Darwin Jones on Saturday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Cordell Cato, middle, tries to keep the ball away from Orange County's Kevin Alston, left, and Darwin Jones on Saturday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Cordell Cato, middle, tries to keep the ball away from Orange County's Kevin Alston, left, and Darwin Jones on Saturday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-22af1e85a01cdfe862fd3c4df2e9f046.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Mekeil Williams (55), Callum Ross (4) and Alvin Jones (61) celebrate a goal by Jones in the first half of a 1-0 win against Orange County on Saturday at Taft Stadium. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Mekeil Williams (55), Callum Ross (4) and Alvin Jones (61) celebrate a goal by Jones in the first half of a 1-0 win against Orange County on Saturday at Taft Stadium. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Mekeil Williams (55), Callum Ross (4) and Alvin Jones (61) celebrate a goal by Jones in the first half of a 1-0 win against Orange County on Saturday at Taft Stadium. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
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