Gareth Evans had a rough Sunday night.
The OKC Energy midfielder was yellow-carded, berated by a referee and — along with his team — booted out of the United Soccer League playoffs 2-1 by the LA Galaxy II. A spirited second-half attack failed to offset a sluggish first.
To compound matters, Evans was blasted square in the face by a Galaxy player’s shot late in the opening half. The Welshman lay on the ground for more than a minute clutching his head.
“Mom, the blonde guy’s dead,” said a small child in Section 16 of Taft Stadium. “They killed him.”
Evans resurrected himself only to receive extra consternation from the official who had given him a yellow card earlier in the match. The midfielder jumped up and down in frustration on the sideline as the referee delayed more than 10 seconds before signaling for his return.
“This guy has caused us all kinds of trouble before,” Evans said after the game while Energy players applauded the team’s Grid cheering section. “I mean, first and foremost, full credit to the LA Galaxy. We didn’t show up in the first half.”
Indeed, the Energy gave up two goals in the game’s first 45 minutes — the first off a bouncing ball that Energy defenders mishandled, and the second on a curving free kick that arched perfectly over the Energy wall.
That 2-0 deficit proved too big a hole for the second-year OKC team, despite a crisper and more aggressive second half that yielded a goal and several other opportunities.
Coady Andrews netted the Energy’s sole score with his head off of a corner kick, and the 7,654-member crowd went berserk. Tracey Zeeck of Bumbershoot PR said the USL Western Conference Finals match set an Energy attendance record.
While the second half provided Energy fans more excitement, it was the first half that stacked cards against the home team.
The Energy were routinely unable to get the ball to lead striker and USL-leading-scorer Danni Konig. From roughly the 13:00 mark until the end of the first half, he touched the ball in the Energy’s offensive zone only once, at the 44:57 mark.
Over 30 minutes of the first half, Konig touched the ball once near midfield, was called offside on a long ball and was called for a foul in the Energy’s defensive zone as tensions flared in the 30th minute. Konig and Evans both reacted angrily toward an official who jawed back at them.
After the game, Evans recalled his frustration with the man who had given him the yellow card.
“He started cursing at me in all kinds of Spanish, and he dropped his head toward me, and I had to back away, otherwise we were going to headbutt each other, and he yellow cards me,” Evans said. “Look at the video, I’m not talking about it anymore. I’m going to get in trouble.”
He likely won’t get in trouble with Energy FC fans, though. They showered the team with cheers, applause and an appreciation for the franchise’s first postseason run. Some spoke afterward about “next season,” which should make the Energy ownership group happy.
And they were prepared. Staff offered fans photocopies of a “2016 season seating chart” as they exited the stadium.
Early-bird season ticket prices range from $126 to $4,620, according to the flier.
(Editor’s Note: This story was updated to designate the Galaxy’s second goal came off a free kick.)