By John Tranchina/NPSL.com
For Tulsa Athletic, it was all about the old mantra of “survive and advance” and they did that.
Tulsa received a goal from Stefan Cvetanovic in the 31st minute and despite missing two penalty kicks, managed to hold on for a 1-0 victory over Brazos Valley Cavalry FC Wednesday night in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup at Hicks Park.
The triumph sets up another much-anticipated second-round matchup with the city’s professional soccer club, FC Tulsa of the USL Championship, on April 5. Last season’s matchup, when FC Tulsa emerged with a hard-fought 2-1 win, took place at ONEOK Field in downtown Tulsa.
Tulsa goalkeeper Bryson Reed admitted he was thinking about that potential matchup while he was making six saves for the shutout.
“Especially after the exit we had last year against FC Tulsa, normally you shouldn’t be thinking of the next game, but that’s kind of where my mind was,” Reed said. “I wanted to make sure I got back for the second round against FC Tulsa. I know if I show up for my team, everybody else is going to do their job. It was scrappy, but at the end, we got the victory and FC Tulsa’s next, and we’re looking forward to it.”
First-year head coach Jason Rogers, who replaced Levi Coleman this season, acknowledged it wasn’t quite his team’s best performance, but it’s all about the result in a single-elimination tournament.
“A win’s a win, on to the next round, we play FC Tulsa,” Rogers said. “I’m still proud, even though the result should have resembled something a little different. I’m proud of the boys, they fought hard, they know when you need to dig a little deeper than you want to. I’m happy.”
Brazos Valley Cavalry FC from the USL League Two, based in Bryan, Texas, played with just 11 men, meaning they didn’t have the option to substitute any players. Still, they put up a spirited fight, even holding the territorial advantage over the first 20-plus minutes, and Tulsa was fortunate to escape that stretch without surrendering a goal.
Reed made five saves within the first 21 minutes to keep the game scoreless.
“Bryson is special, I still wonder how he is not playing pro at some level,” Rogers said. “I think he proved tonight that when called upon, he’s the best keeper in Tulsa.”
Tulsa earned its first PK in the 27th minute when Joe Garcia was pulled down in the box, but Cavalry FC goalkeeper Victor Villareal made a nice save on his low, hard shot.
Four minutes later, Cvetanovic gave Tulsa the lead. After stealing the ball from Brazos Valley defender Bernabe Lopez, he fired a sharp-angle shot from the left side, about 15 yards out, over Villareal.
“He’s a brilliant player, he’s a very attack-minded player, very technical on the ball,” Rogers said of Cventanovic, who played collegiately at Oklahoma Wesleyan. “Obviously he can score unbelievable goals and he did that throughout his college career, so we’re happy to have him.”
The second Tulsa PK came in the 63rd minute due to a Brazos Valley handball in the box. This time, Jordan Watson took the shot, booming it over the crossbar.
“Definitely a little disappointing, but the fact that we can still miss two PKs and beat a team, that just shows the quality we have,” Reed said. “And honestly, all credit to the other team, they only had 11 players the whole time. They worked their tails off, outhustled us basically for the full 90, but that just shows a lot about us, missing two PKs and still getting the victory. We have a very talented team.”
Reed is excited for the rematch with FC Tulsa and hopes his team will have a little more time to hone their game.
“Just got to stay locked in,” he said of the mindset going into that contest. “Obviously, that was our first game together, so just got to work on the little kinks we have. We know at the end of the day, we have all of the talent in the world, we just have to work together as a team and there’s really no team in the nation that can stick with us as long as we play our game.”
Photo Credit: Randy Randolph/John Tranchina/NPSL.com