Early on, it looked like the recent woes would continue for the Tulsa Roughnecks FC, but the club battled back from a 2-0 deficit to claim a 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy II Friday night in front of 3,829 at ONEOK Field.
The tie snapped Tulsa’s four-game losing streak, including the squad’s worst-ever defeat, 7-1 at Saint Louis FC last Saturday, improving to 2-9-2 on the season.
With the draw, Los Angeles (5-2-8), which lost in the USL final last season and entered the match as the league's top-scoring team, moved into a tie for second place with Colorado Springs in the Western Conference table.
The Galaxy surged to a 2-0 lead in the first 23 minutes, with both goals coming off of set pieces, and it looked like another disappointing result was inevitable. But the Roughnecks showed impressive resilience and determination by regrouping, clawing their way back into the contest and then enjoying the territorial advantage for much of the remainder of the night.
“After last week’s kebobble in St. Louis, we go into the first (25 minutes), we’re 2-nil down again, but we showed that we do care, we matter, we ground it out, and we got a result,” said Tulsa coach David Irving. “We had the better chances. We ground out a result, so we took some small steps in the right direction."
“It was a good night, our fans are unbelievable, they stick with us and we are trying to fix it. It was a good, disciplined, professional performance tonight.”
Goalkeeper Jake Feener photo by Rich Crimi
Roughnecks forward Sammy Ochoa, who scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season on a penalty kick just before halftime to jump-start the comeback, feels this could be the beginning of a Tulsa resurgence.
“Two mistakes, but we got back into the game, we got a point and we’ll take the point any day,” Ochoa said. “I think it’s a good result, compared to last week, so we’ll take that. During the week, we trained, we talked, we said we’re going to fight. We let two goals in early, but we fought back. It was a good team effort, so it shows we’re all on the same page. So hopefully, we go from here.”
L.A. jumped out to a fast start, getting on the scoreboard in the third minute on Jeffrey Payeras’ first goal of the season. A corner kick from Josh Turnley sailed into the middle of the box, where Payeras lunged forward to knock home a header from seven yards out.
The Galaxy II made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute when Jack McBean notched his league-leading 12th goal of the season. Taking a free kick from just beyond the penalty area, McBean drilled a 19-yard blast through the wall of Tulsa defenders, nicking off of one of them and past goalkeeper Jake Feener.
The Roughnecks nearly got one back seven minutes later off a free kick of their own. Gustavo Villalobos chipped it from 35 yards out into the middle of the box, where David Abidor volleyed it from five yards out. It appeared to be heading towards the upper right corner, but Los Angeles goalkeeper Bennet Sneddon leaped to get a hand on it, deflecting it over the crossbar.
Tulsa finally broke through in the 42nd minute on Ochoa’s PK. Ochoa generated the call himself, chasing down a lead pass when he was tripped by L.A.’s Alejandro Covarrubias just inside the top left corner of the box.
Ochoa then stepped up to the dot and slotted a low shot just inside the right post, past the diving Sneddon.
Sammy Ochoa PK celebration photo by Brooke Carroll
Infused with momentum, the Roughnecks almost tied it in first-half stoppage time when Jasson Ramos Carpio fed a sneaky pass through several defenders to Cristian Mata cutting in from the left wing. Sneddon made a nice, aggressive save as he charged out and got enough of Mata’s low shot from about 10 yards out to send it wide of the right post.
The Roughnecks continued to carry the play in the second half, getting the equalizer just two minutes after halftime on what was officially deemed an “own goal.” Ramos Carpio delivered a corner kick into the box, and as Sneddon jumped out to punch the ball away, it ricocheted off his wrist and into the back of the net.
Ramos Carpio had another opportunity to put Tulsa ahead in the 71st minute when he lined up for a free kick from 30 yards out, but his shot drifted just over the crossbar.
The Galaxy II then had their own prime chance to seize a victory with a dangerous free kick about a minute into stoppage time, but McBean’s blast from 18 yards out sailed over the crossbar.
“All in all, not the three points that we wanted but a step in the right direction,” Irving said. “And hopefully that will give us confidence. Playing against the Galaxy, they’re one of the best teams in the league. It was a little nervy at the end, when you say, ‘Well they’ve got a free kick at the edge of the box, let’s hope he misses the goal,’ and he did, so we had a little bit of Lady Luck tonight that put us in the right direction.”
The Roughnecks’ lineup featured two new players as Irving searches for the right player combinations. Midfielder Garry Lewis started his second straight game after joining the club last week, and Broken Arrow product Bryce Taylor, who was signed as a free agent, made his Roughnecks debut when he entered the game as a substitute in the 64th minute.
“We’re trying to change things up a little bit, and there might be a couple more within the next week or so,” Irving revealed. “Obviously, sometimes, it isn’t our plan. And confidence is a big thing, and the longer you don’t get any confidence, it’s harder to come back. Obviously, that was a step in the right direction. It was a good performance to come back from 2-nil down, and coulda shoulda woulda, we coulda won the game. We had the better chances, really.”
Tulsa will face this same Galaxy II side in its next outing, next Friday, June 24 in Los Angeles.