Tulsa Roughnecks FC was without captain and leading goal scorer Sammy Ochoa for Saturday’s match at Arizona United, but Cristian Mata filled in superbly. Mata registered a brace, with the second goal coming in second-half stoppage time, to propel the Roughnecks to a 2-1 victory at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Match Photos courtesy of Arizona United SC
The win was the fifth of the season for TRFC and improved its season point total to 18, level with the Portland Timbers 2 in the Western Conference table of the USL.
Mata’s big night started early, as he gave the Roughnecks the lead just three minutes into the match. A long ball from Carlos Martinez deflected off the head of Arizona defender Julian Ringhof and to Union High School and University of Tulsa product. Mata calmly chipped the ball over goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski and softly into the back of the net to give TRFC the quick 1-0 lead.
It remained that way through the first 45 minutes, but Tulsa goalkeeper Alex Mangels was called into action a couple of times before the break. He easily saved a header from the dangerous Long Tan and survived his own miscue in the 27th minute. Mangels misplayed a high bouncing ball and watched it go over his head. He quickly recovered and took the ball off the foot Tyler Blackwood before the United forward could shoot into the empty net.
For most of the second half, it looked as if the Roughnecks would register the one-goal win, but the action picked up in the final 30 minutes.
In the 60th minute, Arizona United leveled the score with an own goal. A cross from the left wing went directly to center back Isaiah Schafer. Schafer missed on his clearance attempt and the ball deflected past Mangels and into the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
Mata seemed intent on making sure Schafer’s miscue would not prove costly.
He appeared to put Tulsa in front in the 74th minute when he ran onto another long ball behind the Arizona defense. He ran at Woszczynski and circled the keeper before putting the ball in the back of the net. As the Roughnecks celebrated the goal, the referee conferred with his assistant before waving the goal off with an offside call. Even though the call came late, replays showed the decision was likely correct, leaving the score level at 1-1.
But, Mata was not to be denied his winner. Two minutes into four minutes of stoppage time, he struck again. David Abidor played a ball forward that Mata passed to substitute Kaleem just inside the center circle. The Pakistan International smartly played the ball wide back to Mata who raced into the box and slid a low, right-footed shot past the keeper and into the back of the net.
From there, Mangels and the Roughnecks back line of Schafer, Iarfhlaith Davoren, Devin Morgan and newcomer Edgar Espinoza made sure the one-goal lead held over the final two minutes of play.
It is the second time in his career that Mata has netted a brace. He also scored two goals in a 5-1 win over the Real Monarchs last season.
The win allowed the Roughnecks to claim a series sweep of Arizona this season. Tulsa also claimed a 3-2 win at ONEOK Field on July 1.
Overall, it was the third win for the Roughnecks in four overall meetings with Arizona in two seasons of play. They have yet to lose to United, picking up a draw to go with the three victories.
Ochoa was not the only forward to miss the match for Tulsa. Bryce Taylor did not make the trip after suffering an ankle injury in training on Thursday.
Espinoza made his USL debut for TRFC in the game as the right back’s signing was finalized this week. Espinoza was most recently with Shirak F.C. of the Armenian Premier League.
The victory improved the Roughnecks’ record to 5-12-3 with 10 matches remaining in the USL regular season. They are now nine points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
Tulsa will have a chance to move further up the table next week with a pair of matches at ONEOK Field. The first will be on Thursday, August 4 when TRFC will host the Orange County Blues in downtown Tulsa. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.