The best things in life are free, and some of the best rivalry games end scoreless. Arizona United SC and OKC Energy FC delivered a spectacular 0-0 match in front of an announced crowd of 3,108 at Peoria Sports Complex Saturday night. Carl Woszczynski, USL record holder for saves in a season, was not troubled much until the last half hour of this one, but the big man and his charges came up with a clutch shutout against Danni König and his high pressure mates from OKC.
Ever the leader, Woz deflected post-game praise and acknowledged the auspicious display of his backline, saying, “The defense has been amazing this year, and I haven’t had nearly as many saves as last year, but I still have to be ready when I’m called upon to make those saves.”
The first half was chock-full of chances created by a bevy of United attacking players, especially Tyler Blackwood and Luke Rooney. OKC spent much of the half on the back foot, and Rooney wasn’t shy with his disappointment over the club’s inability to get into the net. “It’s very frustrating,” said the English midfielder. “I think we created plenty of chances; first half I think it was comfortable for us. Probably could have done better in the final third. We should be putting the ball in the back of the net.”
The second half was a raucous affair, with both clubs trading chances, and a few strong challenges. Uchenna Uzo, rookie United defender, was outstanding on the night, denying König again and again as OKC became more desperate to salvage a winner. Woszczynski was quick to lavish praise on the youngster as well. Said Woz, “He’s grown leaps and bounds over just 5-6 games already. He’s become a force in the league, I think one of the better center backs I’ve seen.”
A testy moment came just before full time as Woz and former United striker Jordan Rideout were among those involved in a shoving match following the keeper’s punch-clearance of an OKC corner. Rideout was class after the match though, acknowledging that being on the other side of what has become a thrilling rivalry between third-year franchises gives a unique perspective. He said, “Once we step off the field it’s all love. I’ve got nothing but respect and love for Carl, and it was just in the heat of the moment, but that’s how rivalries are.”
Still unbeaten at home in two matches this season, the Firebirds sit in 11th in the USL Western Conference with 8 points. OKC lands at 13th with 6. Seattle and Tulsa (14th and 15th respectively) square off in Tukwila, Washington tomorrow and Seattle could overtake United in the standings with a win.