Toth’s late goal – which coach Jimmy Neilson called a “fantastic strike” – settled a 1-0 match that seemed destined for overtime as Energy FC and in-state rival Tulsa Roughnecks FC struggled to threaten each other’s nets.
Toth, who entered the game in the 61st minute, said he received the ball from his left and saw an opportunity for a shot from about 30 yards out.
“I was trying to put it in the corner,” he said. “I think pretty much I did it.”
With the win, Oklahoma City moves on to play MLS leader FC Dallas in the Fourth Round of the nation’s oldest tournament. That game will be played June 16 in Fort Worth, Texas.
On Wednesday, both Oklahoma-based USL sides played tight defense, marshalling their forces at the top of the box to limit their opponents’ scoring chances.
The teams were credited with 12 shots on goal (nine for Oklahoma City), but only a couple of those posed any serious scoring threats.
Oklahoma City’s most dangerous attack before Toth’s winner came from defender Michael Harris’ acrobatic flip throw-in, which Tulsa goalkeeper Zac Lubin awkwardly swatted away in the game’s opening minutes.
Lubin, who has Open Cup experience winning TheCup.us Player of the Round for the Kitsap Pumas (PDL) in 2011, rarely was troubled after that, even though Energy FC coach Neilson insisted his team dominated the first half.
“I’ve got to give Tulsa credit. In the second half, they came out strong, with a lot of good energy, and made it very, very difficult for us,” he said. “It became very, very intense. Not the prettiest game, but the intensity was there. Both teams were fighting for every inch on the field.”
Tulsa’s chance came in the 54th minute, when Roughnecks midfielder Eli Galbraith-Knapp launched a stinging shot on goal. Energy FC goalkeeper Evan Newton bobbled the shot, but managed to cover it before an onrushing Tulsa player could reach it.
Galbraith-Knapp also had a chance for a late equalizer, but was unable to get onto the end of a well-flighted corner kick to the far post in the 88th minute.
In the end, Neilson said, Toth’s “fantastic” strike secured the win for Energy FC.
“It doesn’t surprise us,” Neilson said. “He’s doing that day in and day out in training.”
He said Toth entered the game as a box-to-box midfielder before settling into his favored role underneath the striker.
Neilson, who won the 2012 US Open Cup as a player with Sporting Kansas City (MLS), said Oklahoma City had to shuffle its lineup a bit because of injuries, but he praised his team for its effort.
“They found a way to win out there. They battled and they gave everything they had,” he said. “Again, not the prettiest game, but who cares? We move on to the next round.”
Defender Cyprian Hedrick said Energy FC’s back four fought hard, winning a lot of first and second balls to thwart Tulsa attacks.
“Our job was to come out here and get it done,” he said. “We did that and got a shutout.”
Neilson said his team relishes the opportunity to play FC Dallas, which currently leads MLS’s Supporters Shield race, in the next round of the Open Cup.
“It’s going to be a big challenge and a handful, but it’s going to be a fantastic experience for everyone,” he said.
Neilson said he hopes his team can surprise the higher-division team as an underdog.
“We know in soccer, anything can happen,” he said.
REPLAY: OKC ENERGY AT TULSA ROUGHNECKS