TULSA, OK—The Tulsa Roughnecks FC began their journey in the United Soccer League on Saturday night as they battled the Oklahoma City Energy to a 1-1 draw in front of a sellout crowd of 8,335 at ONEOK Field. Billed as the “Oklahoma Derby”, the inaugural match at ONEOK inspired an electric atmosphere in the stands featuring both from both eras of professional soccer in Tulsa, with the new generation beginning with the ideal in-state rivalry between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
On the field, the game was a prime example of first game jitters for both teams as both clubs were very tentative and conservative in their game plans to start the match. It wasn’t until the 40th minute of the game before the teams found a groove and that was when the Roughnecks came close to striking first when they popped off three quick shots in succession that almost saw the home side take the lead. Two of those shots were handled by Energy goalkeeper Evan Newton and the third by Roughnecks midfielder Steven Miller ringing off the right post.
First blood was drawn in the 45th minute of the game when OKC defender Michael Thomas beat Tulsa goalkeeper Zac Lubin with a header to give the visitors a lead heading into the intermission. In the 72st minute, midfielder Brady Ballew scored the first regular season goal in Tulsa Roughnecks FC franchise history when he dribbled to the right side of the penalty area and chipped in a curving shot that just missed a diving OKC Defender and landed in the far corner of the Energy net.
Both teams then clamped down defensively and rode time out until the end.
By the numbers, the Roughnecks fired 16 shots (5 SOG) with OKC limited to only nine shots (2 SOG). Tulsa was whistled for 10 fouls and they were issued two yellow cards while the Energy committed five fouls and were also issued two yellow cards. Most important for the home team, while it was not a victory, the Roughnecks did grab their first standings point in USL league play by effecting the draw (tie).
A draw in USL League play gives a point to each team. It was vastly different from the original incarnation of the Roughnecks where every game was played to a conclusion where there is a winner or a loser, the USL plays to a draw as they do in FIFA-sanctioned play.
Next up for the Roughnecks is a rematch with Saint Louis FC at 7pm on Thursday evening at ONEOK Field. The two teams split the friendly matches in the preseason.