Match Recap by John Tranchina
The Tulsa Roughnecks FC parlayed a strong start into an early two-goal lead, then held on in the second half to emerge with a 3-2 victory over Arizona United SC Friday night in front of 3,323 at ONEOK Field.
Match Photos by Rich Crimi
The victory gives Tulsa 11 points on the season and snaps a difficult six-match winless streak (0-5-1).
The potent combination of leading scorer Sammy Ochoa, along with local products Cristian Mata and Bryce Taylor, provided the offensive fireworks, while Tulsa also needed several big saves from goalkeeper Alex Mangels in the second half to secure the triumph.
Ochoa scored his eighth goal of the season, which ranks fifth in the United Soccer League, while adding two assists. Mata, who is from Tulsa and played at Union High School, scored his first goal of the season, along with an assist, while Taylor, who played for Broken Arrow High School, scored his first goal for the Roughnecks in just his third match.
“Coming in, we knew we needed a result, and tonight, we battled it out,” Mata said. “I felt we came out big in the first 30, it was just about finishing it off, and I thought we did that. We had a really good week of training, a tough week of training, and me and Sammy showed a good start and hopefully we can continue on that.”
Mangels, playing his second game since missing four matches with a hamstring injury, allowed two goals, but made nine saves, including a spectacular diving stop in the 90th minute on a 15-yard blast from Arizona’s Long Tan that would have tied the game.
Tulsa even played the final nine minutes – which included six minutes of stoppage time – down a man after defender Anthony Peters was shown a red card in the 87th minute for a hard tackle.
“I thought we played well the first half,” Roughnecks coach David Irving said. “We could have had a few more, we didn’t, and we let them put a goal in. We had 10 men (at the end), but it was a good victory and the boys worked hard. All credit to them, it wasn’t an easy night, but we’ll take the three points.”
The loss leaves Arizona at 4-6-5 and snaps its four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2).
The Roughnecks surged to a 2-0 lead just 14 minutes into the match.
Ochoa started the barrage just six minutes in, receiving a pass from Mata on the rush and firing a 20-yard shot low and just inside the right goalpost.
Taylor then made it 2-0 with a spectacular individual effort. After collecting a nice lead pass from Ochoa, the Broken Arrow product dribbled down the left wing into the penalty box, squeezed through several different defenders and then deposited an 8-yard shot just inside the right post.
Carlos Martinez nearly gave the Roughnecks a three-goal lead four minutes later, with a 10-yard header, but Arizona goalkeeper Jordan Stagmiller made an excellent diving save.
Arizona United pulled to within one in the 28th minute on Tan’s third goal of the season. Tony Cascio lofted a high pass from the left wing, which found Tan in the middle, about 8 yards out, for a header that bounced just past the lunging Mangels.
Mata restored Tulsa’s two-goal lead in the 40th minute, receiving a pass from Ochoa and barging in alone on Stagmiller, making a cut to his left before popping it home low inside the near post.
Arizona had one more prime chance before halftime when a cross by Cascio pinballed off the head of a Tulsa defender in front, forcing Mangels to make a diving save. The ball then bounced out to Tyler Blackwood, Arizona’s leading scorer, for a point-blank rebound chance and Mangels stopped smothered it.
Starting the second half up 3-1, the Roughnecks were on the defensive for virtually the rest of the game.
Arizona almost got one back just two minutes after the break when a pass from Peter Kelly found Tan in front of goal, about 5 yards out. But, Tan’s volley pinged off the crossbar.
Mangels then made a tough save in the 53rd minute, leaping up to get his hand on a 20-yard shot by Chris Cortez, barely deflecting it over the crossbar.
United did pull to within one in the 57th minute on Tan’s second of the night. The play was set up by a free kick from Adam West about 25 yards out near the right sideline, as Tan’s leaping header from about 12 yards out deflected into the back of the net.
West nearly tied it in the 77th minute with a booming 25-yarder that curled toward the upper right corner, but Mangels leaped and deflected it straight up in the air with his hand, barely corralling it when the ball landed.
It was the 87th minute when Peters was sent off with a straight red card, putting Tulsa a man down the rest of the way.
The Roughnecks nearly had to settle for a disappointing draw, but Mangels came up with the save of the night in the 90th minute, diving to stop Tan’s bid for a hat trick on a 15-yard blast that appeared headed for the lower right corner.
“Obviously, the score dictates the pattern of play,” Irving said. “We’re 3-1 up in the second half, obviously they’re going to come at us, and they got a goal, so that changed the game. But we hung on and we fought, and then at the end, they gave six minutes of stoppage time. I don’t know where that came from, but that’s what we had to deal with. It was nice to get three points.”
The Roughnecks get very little time to rest, though, as they are right back at it on Sunday night, when USL expansion side San Antonio FC visits ONEOK Field.
Irving hopes that some of the recent roster additions – such as Taylor, and midfielder Matt LaGrassa, who made his second appearance for the Roughnecks when he entered the match in the 61st minute, and Steven Miller, one of the squad’s most dependable players last year who just re-joined the club on loan from NASL Carolina, will help Tulsa make a charge up the standings.
“We brought Bryce Taylor in, and two local boys score, we brought Matt LaGrassa in, we’re trying to shuffle the deck a little bit and it’s worked,” Irving said. “Steven Miller’s back with us for a month or so. Obviously, we had a rough start, but no excuses. We just got to continue this trend and hopefully we can get three points on Sunday."