Sammy Ochoa and the Tulsa Roughnecks continued their strong start to the preseason Thursday afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida. Ochoa netted two more goals to lead the Roughnecks to a 3-2 victory over the Jacksonville Armada of the North American Soccer League.
The win came just over 24 hours after a group of Roughnecks players were injured in a car accident while traveling to Jacksonville. The victory keeps Tulsa undefeated after three preseason matches, logging two wins and a draw.
On a sunny, warm day in north Florida, Ochoa remained the hottest player on the field, as he opened the scoring just nine minutes into the match. The forward took a feed from Brady Ballew and beat Armada goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo to stake the Roughnecks to a 1-0 lead.
It would be the lone goal of the first half, but it did not take Cristian Mata long to double the Roughnecks lead in the second stanza. With service provided by Taylor Morgan, Mata found the back of the net for the second time in the preseason in the 49th minute to give Tulsa a 2-0 lead.
The Armada answered five minutes later as Pascal Millien beat Tulsa goalkeeper Alex Mangels, who came on in the second half in place of Jake Feener, with a low, left-footed shot to make it 2-1.
It was the Armada who kept the pressure on for the next few minutes before the Roughnecks started to push forward again. The pressure paid off when the duo of Ballew and Ochoa hooked up again in the 63rd minute. Ochoa headed home a cross from Ballew for his second goal of the match and his team-leading fourth of the preseason to put the Roughnecks up 3-1.
It was the third assist for Ballew and all three have come on goals from Ochoa.
Jacksonville kept the pressure on and pulled back within one goal in the 73rd minute. Cameroonian International Charles Eloundou beat the Tulsa defense to make it 3-2.
The goal upped the intensity of the match as the Armada pushed forward for an equalizer, and the shorthanded Roughnecks fought to protect their lead. In the end, Eloundou’s strike would prove to be the final goal in the match as Tulsa held on for the one-goal victory.
“It was a great performance after the events of yesterday,” said Roughnecks Head Coach David Irving. “It was a good result against a very good side. We were limited to only 14 available players with trialists, but we had a number of chances. The last 15 minutes were very difficult as we asked a number of guys to go 90 minutes for the first time.”
Irving admitted that he has been impressed with the early play of his veteran forward.
“Sammy has worked hard during the off season, and it is paying dividends for him. He has got the bit between his teeth and is finishing his chances. I’ve made him captain for the games down here, and he is taking the leadership role to heart.”
In the end, Irving kept the early season success for his team in perspective. “It is a good result for us, but it is still just the preseason. It doesn’t matter until March 26.”
The March 26 the coach is referring to is the date of Tulsa’s regular season opener. The Roughnecks will host the expansion Rio Grande Valley Toros (Houston Dynamo USL side) at ONEOK Field.
Tickets for the match, as well as season tickets, are now on sale. Individual tickets can be purchased by clicking HERE.
Tulsa has one more match remaining in its preseason trip to Florida. The Roughnecks will take on another NASL squad, Miami FC, Saturday morning at 9:00am CST in Jacksonville. The squad’s first action in Oklahoma will take place on Thursday, March 10 when it takes on the University of Tulsa at the Hurricane Track and Soccer Stadium.