FC Tulsa can’t overcome early deficit to El Paso

TULSA – Streaky can be good. Streaky can be bad. FC Tulsa has been streaky in 2021 and right now, the streak is sour.

A 2-1 loss to El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday night at ONEOK Field ran FC Tulsa’s winless streak to five, a run made so surprising by the five-match winning streak that immediately preceded this disappointing drought.

El Paso came into the match with the fewest losses in the USL Championship, just two in 25 matches. Even missing six players due to injury, the Locomotive showed why with two quick goals inside the first 14 minutes. It was the 7th and 8th goals conceded in the first 15 minutes of a match this season with six of those eight coming at ONEOK Field.

The task to make a comeback wasn’t made any easier with FC Tulsa missing four typical starters in Joaquín Rivas (international duty), Marlon Santos (yellow card accumulation) Jorge Corrales and Eric Bird (injuries). Backs against the wall, FC Tulsa created plenty of first half chances, but the offense continued to be snake bit when it came to the final touch until just before the stroke of halftime.

Ayo Flanagan, filling in for Jorge Corrales at left back, made a solo run, beating his man to the 18-yard box where he found Darío Suárez. Suárez turned and laid the ball off to da Costa who slotted home Tulsa’s lone goal. It was the first goal from open play in 396 minutes.

That goal was all El Paso allowed as the Locomotive FC defense locked down Tulsa in the second half, limiting the hosts to just one shot in the final 45 minutes.

Tulsa will now watch as both Memphis 901 FC and OKC Energy FC play in non-division action on Sunday. Dropped points from Memphis means FC Tulsa will hang onto third place in the Central in the immediate future while dropped points from OKC will inch Tulsa closer to a spot in the USL Championship Playoffs.

Attached are Finals Stats and Postmatch Quotes from head coach Michael Nsien, defender Johnny Fenwick and midfielder Rodrigo da Costa.

HIGHLIGHTS

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zsypxjQr7Nwwtn05z82_Y-vdge8mad9L/view?usp=sharing

GOALS

7′ ELP - Aaron Gomez (Macauley King)

14′ ELP - Luis Solignac (Aaron Gomez)

45′+1 TUL - Rodrigo da Costa (Darío Suárez)

STREAKS BROKEN

It had been 396 minutes since FC Tulsa had scored in the run of play when da Costa found the back of the net on the stroke of halftime. Dating back to the 6′ minute of FC Tulsa’s 2-1 win over Indy Eleven on Sept. 8, Tulsa had only scored from the penalty spot. Da Costa broke a streak of his own with the goal as well as the Brazilian midfielder’s last goal came on July 29 against Atlanta United. The 12 scoreless matches tied the longest goalless streak of his three-year USL career.

NEWCOMERS IN THE XI

With absences throughout the squad, Flanagan, Fenwick and Kibato received rare starts. It was the first FC Tulsa start for Flanagan and Fenwick and only the third for Kibato in 2021. The newcomers showed well with all three playing the full 90 minutes. Coach Nsien will have some tough choices in the final five matches of the season with Rivas traveling back to Tulsa from international duty in time for next weekend’s match, Marlon returning from his card suspension and possible other injury returns, FC Tulsa should look closer to full strength next weekend.

PLAYOFF UPDATE

Even with the loss, FC Tulsa could still improve its playoff chances with a loss or draw by OKC Energy FC on Sunday. Any dropped points by OKC would decrease FC Tulsa’s magic number from 9 to either 7 (with a OKC draw) or 6 (with a loss). FC Tulsa is still very much in control of its own destiny, however, with two matches in hand on OKC following their match tomorrow.

CENTRAL DIVISION STANDINGS UPDATE

Team Matches Played Record (W-L-D) Points

Louisville City FC 28 16-5-7 55

Birmingham Legion FC 27 15-7-5 50

FC Tulsa 27 12-12-3 39

Memphis 901 FC 26 10-8-78 38

OKC Energy FC 28 8-9-11 35

Indy Eleven 28 8-13-7 31

Atlanta United 2 29 7-12-10 31

Sporting KC II 29 4-17-8 20

UP NEXT

FC Tulsa makes a road trip south to San Antonio FC next Saturday which will start a sprint to the finish line of the 2021 season. It’s the first of five matches over the final 15 days of the season between Oct. 16-30. The match against San Antonio will be the final match outside the Central Division. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT.