Joey Calistri scored his second goal of the season in Tulsa's 2-1 loss to Sacramento on Saturday. (Photo by Lori Scholl)
The Tulsa Roughnecks FC was beaten 2-1 by the Sacramento Republic Saturday night at ONEOK Field, but Tulsa may have turned in its most spirited stretch of the season in the defeat. After giving up two goals early in the second half, the Roughnecks applied constant pressure over the final 20 minutes, but were unable to produce a second goal to get something from the match.
With the loss, the Roughnecks remained with three points on the young season, while Sacramento remained perfect with three wins in three outings.
The match marked the return of Sammy Ochoa to Tulsa. The former MLS striker spent the past two seasons with the Roughnecks, scoring 19 regular season goals. Ochoa did not find the net on Saturday, but he did play a role in the game’s first goal.
An entertaining first 45 minutes did not produce any goals, but both teams had chances. TRFC had two good scoring opportunities in the game’s first 11 minutes. First, Joaquin Rivas found space on the left side of the penalty area in the eighth minute, but he pulled his left-footed shot wide of the far post.
Three minutes later, Cristian Mata, who was making his first appearance of the year, got free on a breakaway. In a one-on-one with the keeper, Dominic Jakubek forced him wide and Mata’s shot struck the side netting.
For Sacramento, Roughnecks keeper Bryan Byars saved a deflected shot from Adam Moffat in the 25th minute and a soft header from Danny Barrera in the 35th minute.
Cristian Mata hit the side netting on a first-half breakaway. (Photo by Lori Scholl)
After the break, Tulsa started slowly and the Republic quickly capitalized. In the 49th minute, Ochoa flicked a header to an unmarked Wilson Kneeshaw who used the outside part of his right foot to leave Byars with no chance as Sacramento took the 1-0 lead.
It remained that way until the 67th minute when Tyler Blackwood doubled the lead for SAFC. Ochoa fired a shot from the right side that Byars saved, but the rebound rolled to directly to Blackwood who side footed his finish into the open net to make it 2-0.
From there, TRFC applied nearly constant pressure in an attempt to salvage something from the match.
In the 78th minute, Joey Calistri blistered a shot that Jakubek saved with his right hand. The Sacramento keeper stayed down with an apparent injury after the save, but quickly recovered enough to blow a kiss to the TRFC supporters section and to get into a pushing match with Juan Caffa. After the two teams were separated, it was Caffa who was given a yellow card.
A breakthrough for TRFC finally came two minutes later. Substitute Brady Ballew nearly found the net, but his curling, right-footed shot from the top of the box bounced off the post and directly to Calistri. Calistri chested down the rebound and fired his right-footed shot past Jakubek to make it 2-1. It was the second goal of the season for the midfielder who is on loan from the Chicago Fire of MLS.
For the next 10 minutes, the Roughnecks appeared destined to find an equalizer, but chance after chance came up empty. One of the best opportunities came in the 87th minute when Caffa’s corner found a wide open Jorge Corrales at the back post, but the defender’s left-footed shot skied over the crossbar.
Three minutes into stoppage time, it looked like Mata might produce an equalizer. Joaquin Rivas’ cross set up an unmarked Mata at the penalty spot, but his side-footed shot rolled harmlessly past the post.
Despite the disappointing defeat, TRFC Head Coach David Vaudreuil saw positives from the match.
“We gave up a couple of soft goals, but then we showed great character and a good attitude,” said Vaudreuil. “We could have easily scored another goal or two as we threw the kitchen sink at them.”
“I was disappointed that there were periods where they controlled the game, but we have two weeks now to get fit and get prepared for a good Rio Grande Valley side. Overall, I think we are in a very good position.”
The two weeks of preparation occurs because TRFC will be off next week. The Roughnecks will next be in action on Saturday, April 22 when they travel to Rio Grande for a rematch with the Toros. On April 1, the Roughnecks recorded a 1-0 victory over RGV at ONEOK Field. It will be the first away match of the season for Tulsa.
The meeting in south Texas will be the first of two straight road matches. On Friday, April 28, the Roughnecks will play at Colorado Springs in another rematch. Tulsa’s next home game will take place on May 11 when it hosts Vancouver Whitecaps 2.
Saturday's match marked the return of Sammy Ochoa (Photo by Brooke Carroll)