TULSA, Okla. – FC Tulsa grabbed a dramatic victory in second-half stoppage time to move back into second place in Group D with a 1-0 victory against San Antonio FC at ONEOK Field on Saturday night. Eric Bird scored the decisive goal for the hosts, who will now sit back and see how Austin Bold FC fares against OKC Energy FC on Sunday evening in the duel for the group’s second playoff place.
Each side had produced chances to take the lead throughout the 90 minutes, but as the game entered stoppage time it appeared the game might drift to a scoreless draw. That idea was tossed out of the window in the second minutes of stoppage time as Tulsa launched a late attack.
A long ball forward by Bradley Bourgeois from the right channel found Uchenna Uzo in the left side of the penalty, and the forward headed the ball back across goal. Dario Suarez was beaten to the header by a San Antonio defender, but his attempt to clear set up perfectly for Bird near the penalty spot, and his left-footed volley picked out the bottom-right corner of the net to send the team and the socially-distanced fans in the stands into celebrations.
Tulsa now leads Austin by one point for second place, with each side having three games to go in their respective regular seasons.
The game had opened brightly as both clubs threatened in the opening five minutes, but the first big moment arrives in the 16th minute as a weak attempt by the hosts rebounded off a defender and straight to Suarez, who fired a great shot from 25 yards toward the top-left corner of the net that San Antonio goalkeeper Matt Cardone denied with one-handed save to turn the ball wide.
Tulsa’a Marlon also had a long-range effort four minutes later parried wide more comfortably by Cardone, but in the 22nd minute San Antonio’s Jordan Perruzza went even closer to breaking the deadlock as a deflected shot fell nicely for a volleyed finish from eight yards that Tulsa goalkeeper Sean Lewis brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar and behind for a corner.
The hosts went close again in the 25th minute as Ariel Martinez drifted in from the right flank and curled a left-footed shot from 25 yards just wide of the left post, and then five minutes before halftime a crucial covering block by Josh Yaro kept out Suarez after Martinez had played his teammate into the left side of the penalty area to keep the game scoreless at the break.
The second half opened with fewer chances, but in the 66th minute Martinez missed a big chance for the hosts to take the lead as he was found alone near the penalty spot by Rodrigo Da Costa but sent his finish over the crossbar, banging the turf as he dropped to his knees in frustration.
San Antonio also had a good chance with just over 10 minutes to go as well, but Tulsa’s Kevin Garcia closed down to block Luis Solignac’s chance to shoot before Ethan Bryant sent his finish on the rebound wide of the right post.
The pace then picked up as San Antonio’s Blake Smith was denied by Lewis with an effort from the left side of the penalty area with two minutes to go. Then a minute later, Tulsa's Martinez got in behind the defense and after being closed down before he could shoot laid a pass back to Uzo, who fired a shot off the crossbar before the defense cleared to safety. That missed opportunity would not come back to haunt the hosts, however, as Bird’s winner provided the three points Tulsa needed to remain strongly in the postseason hunt.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Eric Bird, FC Tulsa – Bird scored a crucial game-winner for the hosts, and finished the night with five shots and two key passes while completing 38 of 49 passes overall and 6 of 9 duels in the center of midfield.