TRFC's starting lineup for Saturday's preseason friendly with the Chicago Fire.
The Tulsa Roughnecks F.C. traveled to Illinois Saturday afternoon to face its MLS affiliate, the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Facing a strong Fire lineup that included 2017 MLS Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, German World Cup veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger and MLS All-Star Dax McCarty, the Roughnecks took an early advantage but eventually surrendered two late goals to fall to the Fire 2-1.
The match marked the second straight year the two sides have met in Chicago during preseason, with the Roughnecks picking up a 2-1 win last season against a Fire side that was missing a number of key players, unlike this year’s meeting.
The Roughnecks opened the scoring 16 minutes into Saturday’s match when former Chelsea F.C. signing Jhon Pirez opened his Tulsa account. Pirez took advantage of a poor clearance to beat former Roughnecks goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland and give TRFC the early lead.
The Fire threatened to find an equalizer before the break, controlling much of the play over the final 20 minutes of the first half. Nikolic found the back of the net in the 34th minute, but he was ruled to have been in an offside position.
Three minutes later, former La Liga midfielder Aleksandar Katai forced TRFC goalkeeper Fabian Cerda into a save.
The pressure from the Fire picked up in the second half, with most of the threatening play coming from Katai and Nikolic.
The Roughnecks conceded the equalizer in the 69th minutes as Cerda turned away a laser from Schweinsteiger from distance, but Drew Conner tapped the rebound to Nikolic who had the easy finish to level the score at 1-1.
The match winner from the Fire came in the 79th minute. Reserve Elliot Collier got behind a tiring Roughnecks’ backline and beat Cerda on the breakaway to make it 2-1.
Despite the score line, it was a good a productive afternoon for the Roughnecks who were missing a number of projected starters. Joaquin Rivas, Paris Gee and Santiago Maidana were not available due to minor injuries.
“It was a very good outing for us,” said TRFC Head Coach David Vaudreuil. “I was very happy with our play, and our guys held up really well. Chicago had a lot of first-team players, and it is a group of really smart, experienced players that know how to attack you, and we showed well. At times, we were able to apply high pressure on them and get a few turnovers and play the way we want to play.”
The Roughnecks will conclude their preseason slate next Saturday, March 10 when they travel to Texas to face USL Western Conference rival San Antonio FC at Toyota Field. Kickoff in the Alamo City is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.