Following a breezy 1-0 win against the fightin' Eagles of Florida Gulf Cost University at the end of January, the NYCFC boys will face their first senior opponent of the preseason today in the Sunshine State.
The match will mark the beginning of the preseason friendly slate for today's opponent, OKC Energy of the third-tier USL.
With less than a month before the start of the 2016 Major League Socccer campaign, Patrick Vieira's Blues will hope not just to escape with a flowing, coherent victory, but to take another step forward in evaluating all the new players who have arrived in the decidedly busy winter transfer window.
Defenders Frederic Brillant and Diego Martinez will likely have their first run of playing time in the sky blue shirt, along with trialist Ivan Ivanov, a Bulgarian-born center back who recently parted ways with Swiss giants FC Basel.
So, who ARE the OKC Energy, anyway?
THE CLUB: After a rough inaugural year in 2014 in which the team finish 10th out of 14 and missed the USL Playoffs, the Energy bounced back in a big way last season. They boosted their average home attendance by over 20% on the way to a second-place regular season finish in USL's Western Conference, losing just one single game in the friendly home environs of Taft Stadium. OKC finished level on points in a virtual tie with the number-one seeded Orange County Blues, and made it all the way to the Conference Finals before falling to eventual league runners-up LA Galaxy II.
THE BOSS: OKC is led by former goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, a Danish legend with over 400 appearances in his home country's Superliga. Following fleeting spells in England with Millwall and Leicester City, he finished his career stateside with Sporting Kansas City, appearing over 120 times in goal for the Wiz before retiring in 2013. Known as a shot-stopper, Nielsen was voted Sporting KC's Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and was also MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in the latter. He is the first-ever manager of OKC Energy, who were founded in 2013 and joined USL the following year.
THE CONNECT: Mikey Lopez, the midfielder who signed with NYCFC in January, was loaned to OKC last year by his then-parent club, Sporting KC. Lopez made eight USL appearances for the Energy, and was waived by Sporting after his loan expired in December.
HOW TO WATCH
New York City FC vs. OKC Energy
Friday, February 12th, 1:00 PM
IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida
Stream online via live.imgacademy.com
NOTE: The stream requires a paid subscription. IMG also plans to stream three more NYCFC friendlies-- HB Koge (2/20), FC Cincinnati (2/24), and KR Rejkjavik (2/27), so consider buying the $15 monthly pass!