by Zach Redwood
Flashback to the late 1970s and early 80s, the Tulsa Roughnecks Soccer Club was Tulsa’s only soccer team. It was a part of the National American Soccer League and played its games at the University of Tulsa’s Skelly Stadium.
Many Tulsans may remember that in early80s, the Tulsa Roughnecks were named champions of the league when they beat the Toronto Blizzard 2-0 to capture the 1983 Soccer Bowl. Tulsa had just experienced its first taste of what the entire rest of the world had already fallen in love with; only it was coming to an end.
With soccer’s popularity dwindling the NASL went out of business in 1984 and with it went the Roughnecks. It took until 2015 for soccer to finally return to Tulsa. Last season, the Roughnecks went 5-21-4 and finished last in the Western Division.
This season the Roughnecks thought that they had started off 2-0 and were gearing up for a long season. Instead, the team has dealt with some early season drama.
In its previous game against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, the Roughnecks had thought they won, until the next day when the USL confirmed that the Roughnecks had used an ineligible player in the 4-1 win.
Tulsa World reported that the USL had been informed that defender Paris Gee had not been cleared to participate in the match. He was substituted onto the pitch in the 74 minute against the Switchbacks. This resulted in the Roughnecks forfeiting the 4-1 win and instead, the USL’s website reflects a 3-0 loss.
Foreign players must jump through multiple “hoops” while trying to get cleared through a league-mandated procedure. Roughnecks coach David Vaudreuil has expressed his regret for not being aware of Gee’s eligibility. But, since the team did not find out about the ruling, they were playing with a head of steam.
On April 1, the Tulsa Roughnecks dawned on OneOk Stadium to take on the Rio Grande Valley Toros. Through the clouds of orange smoke and sounds of beating drums, the Roughnecks came out shooting in the first half of the game.
The one and only goal of the game occurred in the 31-minute of the match when 23-year-old Joey Calistri netted an assist from Ivan Svantesson to put Tulsa up 1-0. The teams battled into halftime with Tulsa still leading but right before the half, a downpour started. The rain continued through the second half and made for slick conditions.
During the second half the rain bogged down both teams and lead to two yellow cards for Tulsa defenders Jorge Luis Corrales and Kosuke Kimura.
Roughneck’s goalkeeper Brian Byars posted his first clean sheet of the season and had little trouble dealing with the rain. During the final minutes of the match, Byars dealt with multiple free kicks and corner kicks with ease as he punched and snagged shots from multiple locations in the goal area.
The Roughnecks ended up winning the game by a score of 1-0 and are now 1-1 on the 2017 season. The next game for Tulsa is against the Sacramento Republic who is now sitting atop the Western Conference after two wins to begin the season.
Visit www.roughnecksfc.com for team news and tickets sales.