By Cody Bradley/NPSL.com
The U.S. Open Cup run for Tulsa Athletic came to an end on Tuesday night with a 3-0 loss at the hands of Sporting KC. But this was truly a massive moment for the club and the NPSL.
“As an organization […] we pride ourselves on big moments like this,” Tulsa head coach Jason Rogers said. “I’m super proud of our group.”
This was the first ever appearance in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for Tulsa, and the first time these two clubs ever faced each other. Tulsa had an uphill battle from the start, as the MLS side put out a strong lineup highlighted by Designated Players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda.
Tulsa Athletic was without KB Harris this round of the tournament. Harris played hero in the second round after scoring the lone goal in a massive 1-0 upset win over rival FC Tulsa.
While Sporting opened the match on the front foot, Tulsa Athletic was able to withstand the early pressure. In fact, they had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 16th minute. Striker Jordan Watson ran behind the SKC defense onto a long ball from over the top. With only the keeper to beat, he took a clever touch around a pouncing John Pulskamp. The SKC shot-stopper missed the ball, taking Watson down in the process. But Pulskamp redeemed himself with a strong save on a well-taken PK to keep the match scoreless.
The home side took the lead in the 33rd minute off the boot of Daniel Salloi. The Hungarian winger fought off a tackle just outside the box and found himself with open space. He took one touch to set himself and fired a rocket towards Bryson Reed’s near post. Reed was able to get his hands on it, but the ball snuck passed him for a 1-0 KC lead..
Tulsa had only 22% possession and gave up 19 shots in the first. However, they found themselves in striking distance, just one goal behind.
But Sporting KC came out of the locker rooms firing on all cylinders. Tulsa faced a barrage of attacks and were forced into desperate defending to open the second half. It took just nine minutes for SKC to double the lead.
Salloi was involved again as he played a curling ball across the box for Pulido in the 54th minute. The SKC talisman smashed it home with a volley from point-blank range.
Things went from bad to worse for Tulsa in the 68th minute. After a swift counter attack, Marinos Tzionis took the ball into the box and fired a shot through traffic that would again sneak past Reed at the near post.
Tulsa was out shot on the night by a final tally of 39 to four. While the scoreline may not have been what they had hoped for, it was an unforgettable night for the Tulsa Athletic.
“How often do you see after a 3-0 loss, guys smiling and hugging?” Rogers said after the match.
One thing is for sure, playing in this match is a big boost for the reputation of Tulsa Athletic. Rogers knows the secret is out.
“[Now] we aren’t going to be able to sneak up on anyone in our league.”
Photo Credit: Thad Bell/NPSL.com