While S2 is undefeated and a symbol of how MLS teams can use their relationship with USL to develop talent. The Tulsa Roughnecks exist in another part of American soccer. They are an independent team with no affiliation agreement at all. Still without their first win, Tulsa looks dangerous. Their roster is made up of players who are clearly capable of succeeding at this level. The ownership group understands how to market and succeed within the US minors. The Thursday night (5 PM) match starts Seattle Sounders FC 2's two-match trip to Oklahoma, a state that still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many a Seattle-ite.
SaH: Tulsa is not affiliated with an MLS team. What do they gain from their independence?
TW: I think not having an MLS affiliation hurt Tulsa in the short run but the flexibility could be beneficial in decisions moving forward. Roughnecks coach David Irving and assistant coach Tom Taylor had to scramble to fill the roster in time for this season. Irving hopped from combine to combine across the United States to identify players and they didn't have a whole lot of practice time together before the season began, which could be a reason for the slow start.
Long-term, though, Irving and the Roughnecks' upper management see benefits in being independent. The Roughnecks are owned by the same people who own the Tulsa Drillers, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Double-A affiliate. They have had success running the Drillers for years and the facilities are solid. Tulsa also does not need to worry about having to play specific players for the purpose of the MLS club.
SaH: What style of play is David Irving trying to instill with the Roughnecks?
TW: Tulsa has only scored one goal in three games, so this might be hard to believe, but the Roughnecks want to attack. Irving said before the season he knows how important an exciting, free-flowing game with lots of chances is in order to keep fans in the seats. Attendance is what will make the franchise a success or failure.
So far, though, those chances have not yielded much. Tulsa has taken 51 shots, 23 on goal, in three matches. Yet the only goal came off a corner kick in the 72nd minute of the season opener against OKC Energy FC. Tulsa has yet to lead a USL game this season. I sense the Roughnecks will figure it out soon — they had 13 shots on goal in their last USL match against the Austin Aztex and they shredded FC Wichita 8-0 in an exhibition on April 9.
SaH: Ochoa is a former Sounders player and both keepers are former Sounders trialists. Which of Feener, Lubin and Ochoa will be key to powering a Tulsa win?
TW: Sammy Ochoa made his first start of the season two weeks ago versus Austin and had plenty of chances to score. At 28 years old, he is two years older than anyone else on the team, so he is as experienced a player Tulsa can offer.
But for this exercise, I'll go with Zac Lubin in the net as being most important. He played well in the tie with the Energy and made some impressive saves in the 2-0 loss to Saint Louis FC. At 6-foot-5, he can get out to a lot of balls and stifle an opponent's aerial attack.
Projected lineup: 4-4-2 formation
GK Zac Lubin
D Ryan Price
D Mason Grimes
D Kyle Venter
D Brady Ballew
M Eli Galbraith-Knapp
M Oscar Jimenez
M Julian Portugal
M Steven Miller
F Sammy Ochoa
F Gibson Bardsley
There is no reverse today. With the roster limitations hitting S2 hard this week guessing a lineup is quite difficult.