|Full name||Tulsa Athletics|
|Owners||Sonny Dalesandro & Dr. Thomas J. Kern|
|Head Coach||Joey Ryan|
|League||National Premier Soccer League|
|2014||1st, South Central Conference|
|Website||Club home page|
The Tulsa Athletics are an American soccer team and are based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States. 2013 was their inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), which is a national league at the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid. They compete in the NPSL's South-South Central Conference. The team maintains amateur status under NPSL rules, allowing college players to participate without losing their collegiate eligibility. They play at Athletics Stadium, the former home of the Tulsa Drillers baseball team. The Tulsa Athletics drew an average attendance of 3,439 in their 2014 season.
The Tulsa Athletics debuted on May 18, 2013 versus now arch rivals Liverpool Warriors. The game was marred by nine Athletics controversially failing to receive international clearance. Thus, the club fielded a line-up featuring very few foreign players. However, a victory was achieved in spectacular fashion as late substitute and reserve player Walter "Wally" Hubbard's 87th minute diving header secured the 3–2 result in front of a crowd of over 3,200 spectators. The goal inspired the nickname "Sir Walter Hubbard" with front office members. Resounding 5–2 and 5–1 results against Houston teams Regals and Hurricanes on the ensuing road trip made the club early division favorites. The Athletics were given a further advantage when the following weekend Houston Hurricanes and Liverpool Warriors played to two 0–0 draws. The Athletics capitalized by thumping Houston Regals 7–0 and 6–0 on successive nights. Defender Blaine Gonsalves was named NPSLplayer of the week. June 2, five games into the regular season the Athletics held a commanding eight point advantage atop the conference table. The club dropped their first two points on June 8, as they were held to a scoreless draw away to Liverpool Warriors. The final trip to Houston proved more difficult as a feisty Hurricanes side hung around for 90 minutes until a late Diego Molero insurance goal secured a 3–1 victory. Two days later Houston Regals nearly played spoilers. It took a determined Stephen Brocks run down the left wing to set up an 85th game-winning goal by Sambo Claros. Liverpool Warriors held serve that weekend with two wins as well keeping their point deficit at eight points after eight matches. On June 22, the club had the opportunity to clinch the division at home versus Liverpool Warriors. Unfortunately it was not to be, as the Athletics threw away a 2–0 first half advantage, received two red cards, and were lucky to hang on for a 2–2 draw in front of an NPSL season high 3,761 fans. The league was clinched seven days later as Tulsa routed the Houston Hurricanes 5–0 at home. The following day they were triumphant 4–0 against the same side. The Tulsa Athletics hosted a friendly versus Mexico's Club America in front of over 5,500 fans on July 2. The team gave an excellent account of itself drawing the match 1–1 and having a late chance come agonizingly close to winning the fixture. The match was won by Club America in penalty kicks.
With only one away match left, hosting a playoff match was in the cards if victory could be achieved away to Liverpool Warriors. A controversial late venue switch from grass to turf proved no issue for the Athletics as they wrapped up the regular season with a dominant 3–1 win over second place Liverpool Warriors and an overall 10–0–2 record. The win meant the Athletics clinched the #2 national seed and the #1 seed in the south region. 2012 NPSL runners-up Chattanooga FC were to be the opponents in the first round of the playoffs. Chattanooga boasted one of the league's top defenses, while the Athletics led the country (all leagues included) in goals per game. The match was an ugly affair with Chattanooga's commitment to defending stifling Tulsa and at the same time not creating offensive chances for either side. Regulation finished 0–0. A couple of chances were created in the overtime sessions but neither team could find the pivotal goal. In penalties Chattanooga's All-NPSL first team goalkeeper Greg Hartley saved all three Tulsa penalties and Chattanooga converted all of theirs, ending Tulsa's season. Chattanooga would lose in the next round to eventual NPSL champion RVA FC, of Richmond, Virginia. Tulsa's Levi Coleman led the team in scoring with 9 goals. Forward Johnny Chavez was named to the 2013 All-NPSL first team. The inaugural season proved that Tulsa was once again a hotbed for the sport as the Athletics' average attendance of just under 3,300 fans per game lead all 4th division clubs (NPSL and PDL) and was 26th in the United States.
The 2014 campaign began with the inaugural Red River Cup featuring former PDL and future NASL side Oklahoma City FC, NPSL newcomers Fort Worth Vaqueros and USASA and former US Open Cup entrant Tulsa Lobos. OKC FC narrowly slipped past Lobos 2–1 and a late Juan Peralta header completed the Athletics 2–1 victory over Ft. Worth. Lobos surprised Ft. Worth in the third place match by winning 2–1. The final again saw Tulsa dig itself into a hole. This time it was a two-goal deficit. Dave Leung's header cut the lead in half and Ray Saari scored his first goal for the club late in the second half. Tulsa had come under a great deal of scrutiny in the off-season for its poor performances during shoot-outs (1–7 in PK shootouts in 2013), however they went an impressive 7 for 7 in the extended shootout and in doing so won the inaugural Red River Cup. The South-Central division saw a drastic change as it lost both Houston teams and added Oklahoma City FC, Joplin Demize, Dallas City FC, Fort Worth Vaqueros, Corinthians FC of San Antonio and BCS Clash. the conference was further divided into North and South divisions. The regular season opened the following weekend in Fort Worth and the Athletics played spoilers running out resounding 5–0 winners against the Vaqueros. Two days later the club set an NPSL league record when they pummeled the ill-equipped BCS Clash 13–0. Tulsa made there much anticipated Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup debut versus upstart USL Pro side Oklahoma City Energy FC. Though both teams had their chances, OKC was the sharper side on the day and advanced on to the third round with a 2–0 victory. Tulsa had a 16-day break before their roller coaster 5–4 victory over Liverpool Warriors. The following 10 days saw two solid victories over new club Joplin 4–0 at home and 4–1 @ Joplin. The new playoff structure paired off the top two teams from the North and the South divisions in a four team playoff. Tulsa was nearing clinching a berth at the midway point of the season. A 2–0 victory vs. OKC FC on breast cancer awareness night all but clinched. However, the next night the Athletics suffered their first ever NPSL regular season defeat 2–5 at the hands of the same OKC FC team that they had vanquished the previous evening. Tulsa got back on track five days later when they clinched a playoff spot with a near perfect 3–0 performance against eventual South champion Corinthians FC of San Antonio. A mid-season friendly with the Houston Dynamo U23's proved an interesting affair as the Dynamo took 2–0 lead into the break. Coach Ryan made a full 10 substitutions at halftime and saw his subs and reserves fight back for an exciting 3–2 victory. Tulsa clinched 1st place in the North the following Friday when they beat Dallas City FC 4–1. CF Monterrey came into town for a friendly on the one year anniversary of Club America's shootout victory and again the match was decided in penalties after ending 2–2. Tulsa avenged the previous year's defeat winning 4–2 in penalties. The game also marked the arrival of Austin Aztex loanee Tony Rocha whose thunderous free kick from 25 yards served as the late tying goal. For the second time in two years Tulsa could clinch the #2 national seed with a win @ Liverpool on the final day of the regular season. The club was victorious 4–2 on a scorching hot day. Tulsa was chosen prior to the season to host the conference tournament. They faced Dallas City who were pipped by Corinthians on the final day of the season to become the #2 seed. The club was masterful, dismantling Dallas City 6–0. In the other semi-final Corinthians won a penalty shootout vs. OKC FC to reach the conference final. The final was a tale of two halves. Tulsa took a commanding 3–0 lead into the final half hour of the game through Niall Masterson, Dave Leung and an Akeil Barrett penalty. However Corinthians came roaring back to make it 3–2 with 15 minutes remaining. Just when it seemed as though Corinthians might find an equalizer, Damieon Thomas's individual effort clinched a 4–2 victory and a second straight South-Central conference championship. The regional playoffs were originally slated to be hosted in Atlanta. However, when the facility became unavailable it went to a bidding process. Tulsa and Chattanooga were the two candidates to host. Chattanooga was awarded the bid solely based on the economic feasibility of travel from the participating teams (Tulsa Athletics, Chattanooga FC, Miami United, Upward Stars of South Carolina), rather than the point total model that decides hosting rights for the national semi-finals and finals. The #1 seed Athletics faced the #4 seed Upward Stars in the regional semi-final, while #3 Chattanooga FC squared off against #2 Miami United. Upward Stars immediately pounced on the Athletics taking a commanding 2–0 lead. One minute before halftime Athletics leading scorer Levi Coleman cut the lead in half. Tulsa entered injury time still trailing 2–1 when makeshift defender/intern/director of soccer operations Matt Boullt got free on a corner kick and headed Tulsa level in storybook fashion. A clearly deflated Upward Stars conceded twice in the first ten minutes of extra time and eventually fell 4–2 setting up a rematch of the 2013 playoff game between Tulsa and Chattanooga. The match started perfectly for Chattanooga who appeared married to a counterattack style of play, as a cleared corner kick started the break for Chattanooga and they turned it into a 1–0 lead in the 4th minute. The next 74 minutes saw Chattanooga in a shell doing whatever they could to see off the Athletics attack. In the 78th minute Chattanooga caught Tulsa on the break again and finished a one on one and doubled the Chattanooga lead. Tulsa were unable to break through and bowed out to CFC for the second straight year. After the match CFC head coach Bill Elliot sang Tulsa's praises saying "They’re the best that we’ve seen so far,” and “If I’m honest, they may have out played us a little tonight." The stat sheet echoed Elliot's statement (final shots on target 12–4 in Tulsa'a favor and possession 68%/32%). The Tulsa Athletics earned a spot in the 2015 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and for the second straight year and led the country (all leagues included) in average goals per game. The club's attendance ranked 3rd in the 78 team NPSL, trailing only Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC (whose numbers were boosted by an amazing 8,878 people in the national semi-final). Surprisingly, no Tulsa players were chosen for any post season awards despite having had the most potent offense in the country. Levi Coleman again led the Athletics in goals scored with 11 tallies.
Prior to the beginning of the season, the Athletics saw their first ever players taken in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft as Akeil Barrett was taken 25th overall by Orlando City SC and Tony Rocha was picked 73rd by Sporting KC. The two time defending conference champions opened their campaign away to Midland/Odessa Sockers in the first round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The Sockers ran out 3-1 winners, knocking Tulsa out of the competition. The regular season began with a home and home with Dallas City FC and saw the Athletics only manage one point from the two contests. The following week Tulsa lost their first (and only) ever regular season home match as Corinthians FC of San Antonio won a thrilling 4-3 affair. Tulsa's slow start found them sitting on 5 points through seven matches and at one point were sitting at the bottom of the table. On June 20th Dave Leung returned to the side. His hat-trick in the opening 27 minutes not only spurred the Athletics on to a 7-1 victory over the Ft. Worth Vaqueros but revitalized the sputtering offense. Tulsa scored a whopping 38 goals in the final 7 matches of the season, taking 19 out of a possible 21 points and beating eventual champions FC Wichita on the final day of the season. The Athletics scored the most goals in the NPSL for the third consecutive season and finished 3rd behind only Corinthians FC of San Antonio and FC Wichita in the South Central conference. Levi Coleman led Tulsa in scoring for the third consecutive year with 10 goals. Tulsa hosted friendlies with Club León sub 20's, CF Monterrey sub 20's, and the Houston Dynamo U-23's.
Crest and colors
The green that the Athletics wear is symbolic of "green country", the moniker given to the area of Oklahoma where Tulsa sits. The gold in the pinstripes that appear on the home kit (and are the dominant color of the away kit) represents trophies, championships, and victory. The crest is a pink shield featuring a traditional unicorn facing a lion surrounding a soccer ball, symbolizing both strength and magic. The pink color of the crest is designed to illustrate the heart. The badge's location over the heart on the jersey signifies that all who wear the crest (players and fans alike) share the same heart.
A supporters group associated with the Tulsa Athletics are the Athletics Armory, who congregate behind the south goal at home matches. Information about the Athletics Armory can be found at http://athleticsarmory.wix.com/athleticsarmory The motto of Athletics Armory members is "Tulsa 'til I Die".
Fans have given the team several unofficial nicknames, including "the A's" and "The Foxes", named after 'Lester', a lone fox who resides in the team's stadium.
In 2014 Oklahoma City FC left PDL to join the NPSL, which created an instant rivalry. The two clubs separated by just 100 miles play the OK Derby at least twice a season, as both compete in the NPSL South-South Central Conference.
The inaugural Red River Cup was contested in May 2014. Four clubs (Fort Worth Vaqueros, Liverpool Warriors, Oklahoma City FC) met in a two-day tournament hosted by Tulsa, who won the title over Oklahoma City FC.
|Year||Division||League||Regular Season||Playoffs||Open Cup|
|2013||4||NPSL||1st, South Central||South Region Semifinal||Did not qualify|
|2014||4||NPSL||1st, South Central||South Region Final||2nd Round|
|2015||4||NPSL||3rd, South Central||Did not qualify||1st Round|
Players and staff
As of August 1, 2014.
- 2013 South-Central Conference Champions
- 2014 South-Central Conference Champions
- 2014 South Region Runners-up
- 2014 Red River Cup Champions
- Ferguson, John D. (April 5, 2013). "Tulsa's new pro soccer team to play at Drillers Stadium". Tulsa World.
- Bewley, Dan (April 4, 2013). "National Premiere League Soccer Coming To Tulsa's Old Drillers Stadium". KOTV-DT.
- "Soccer: Tulsa Athletics release schedule". Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK: World Publishing Company). February 12, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
- "Athletics Win the First Annual Red River Cup". Tulsa Athletics. 5 May 2014.