The Little Rock Rangers returned to LaFortune Stadium four days later, hoping to come away with a win to advance to the Heartland Conference Playoff finals. However, Tulsa came out on top, earning their sixth win and second shutout of the season.
The first half left both teams scoreless. Tulsa played with discipline, but a couple of ill-weighted passes diminished any chances of scoring. Little Rock was unable to capitalize on their usual direct attack; Athletic blocked numerous attempts on goal. Closer to the end of the half, the ball spent a lot of time in the midfield playpen accounting for the effect of the heat on the players. With a deep bench for both teams, the second half was bound to see new faces.
Athletic continued to play with organized pressure on the Rangers in the second. Tulsa goalkeeper Michael Kluver had a fairly quiet night with only five shots on goal, most fairly easily collected. With the help of a pair of fresh strikers and wingers, Jacques Francois helped orchestrate Tulsa’s attack. After Francois did well to beat his man in the corner and send in a cross, the ball bounced out to the feet of Riveros, whose shot was again deflected. Joe Garcia, the man ever-present when Tulsa scores, was at the top of the box to guide the ball home. It was a 1-0 advantage to Tulsa.
Tulsa will head to Wichita Saturday, July 15 for the Heartland Conference final to play number one seeded FC Wichita after a late 3-2 decider over Dallas City FC.
2017 NPSL Season – Heartland Conference Semifinals
Tulsa 1: 0 Little Rock
Wednesday, July 12
Tulsa, OK – LaFortune Stadium
TUL: Joe Garcia 82’
TUL: Tyrone Blackwell (Yellow) 68’
TUL: Jaime Gilbert (Yellow) 90+
#1 Michael Kluver; #19 Tyrone Blackwell, #3 Gustavo Vargas, #23 Jose Navarro. #2, Ricardio Morris; #17 Johnny Chavez (#18 Tarik Salkicic 66’), #8 Jamie Gilbert, #15 Joe Garcia, #5 Nick Downs (#10 Santiago Riveros 77’); #14 Dave Leung (#7 Rashad Jules 88’), #9 Levi Coleman (#11 Jacques Francois 58’)
Little Rock Rangers:
#1 Carlos Herrera #9 Leo Ferri, #6 Ulises Caba Cordova (#8 Rafa Ferreira 82’), #13 Jaden Hoth, #15 Estiven Garcia (#23 Alej. Moquete 56’), #10 Gabi Viola, #2 Robel Dent (#12 Trevor Reed 60’), #21 Josiah Ireland, #18 Nick Doyle, #20 Arne Meyer (#27 Justin Robinson 86’), #24 Blake Stricker