TULSA STAR EMBARKS ON PROFESSIONAL CAREER

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ray Saari was the city’s soccer star for four years. He spent time with both The University of Tulsa and Tulsa Athletic.

Now after signing his first professional contract, the midfielder shared his appreciation for his time at Tulsa Athletic.

“The level of play and the technical skill in practices and game really helped prepare me for what I’m going through now in my professional career.  I owe a lot to my time with Tulsa Athletic and all they have done for me.”

As much as Tulsa Athletic gave to Saari, the Kansas City native gave to the club, as Saari ranks third all-time in points at Tulsa Athletic.

“He is a phenomenal player and we know he will do big things in his career,” Tulsa Athletic GM Matt Boullt said. “Ray will always have a special place with this club and we cannot thank him enough for all the work he did on and off the field.”

In his college career for the Golden Hurricane, Saari was equally as impressive, securing three consecutive American Athletic Conference Tournament titles from his sophomore through senior years. Over his four seasons with the squad, he recorded twelve goals along with twelve assists.

Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh had high praise for Saari’s time as a Golden Hurricane.

“He was a very good player for us for four years.  Ray has a lot of quality attributes both on and off the field and as a program we are excited to watch him continue to develop.”

His next step of development came when Saari signed with Sounders FC 2 in the United Soccer League (USL). Now a professional, Saari has been in Seattle for three short weeks but is already adjusting to his new digs.

“It’s everything I really dreamed of it being.  I’ve only been a pro for about three weeks now but I love everything about it: the lifestyle, playing everyday, and being around other professionals. It’s better than I could have imagined.”

The midfielder joined the Sounders FC first team as a substitute earlier this season, and made his first professional start in a preseason match for Sounders FC 2, where they faced Sacramento Republic FC.

Saari will look to continue starting for Sounders FC 2 and making an impact.

“I want to be able to show the coaches here and the coaches on a national scale that I can do the things that make me a pro.  My goal is to keep learning and get better everyday and establish myself as a starter even at just 21 years old.”

Saari recently was paired with Francisco Narbon, forming a tough and effective midfield duo.

“We call them our pit bulls,” S2 head coach Ezra Hendrickson said of the pair. “We signed both of those guys because we needed that stability in the middle. With those two guys, we have it.”

From Tulsa to Seattle, Saari brings leadership and technical skills which combine to help make him an excellent all-around player, and that’s why the Sounders organization is making the young midfielder part of their long-term plans.

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