The time of decision arrives for numerous clubs in the race for the USL Championship Playoffs on Wednesday night, with the chance that playoff places could be clinched, or elimination may arrive. One club whose for the former is in action as well, and has not only a chance at a playoff place on the line, but a chance to put one over on its biggest rival. Here’s your Morning Tea for Wednesday.
As you approach the finish line of what has been a hard-fought, tense race to reach the postseason, knowing that you control the fate of your season can be a very welcome.
When you add into the equation a matchup against your club’s biggest rival – where the season series will be on the line as well as your playoff aims – then it only amps up the pregame atmosphere.
For FC Tulsa, Wednesday night’s third and final Black Gold Derby of the season brings both propositions.
“It adds more pressure, more excitement,” said Tulsa defender Matt Sheldon on Tuesday. “We definitely want to win the series at home and give our fans a good win and hopefully get the Wrench. As always, you want to win these rivalries, these derby games. We’re really excited to play tomorrow.”
Just over 13 months since the purchase of the club by the Craft family, Tulsa is in a very different place than at the end of last season. The new crest and uniforms are among the sharpest in the Championship, and while not everything has gone according to plan on the field, the atmosphere at ONEOK Field feels so much different.
Eric Bird’s stoppage-time winner against San Antonio FC on Saturday night felt like the sort of moment that happens for teams where good things are right around the corner, and the reaction of the socially-distanced crowd and the players reflected that. That the following day saw Austin Bold FC drop key points in a 0-0 draw against Energy FC only added to the belief that this could be the year for Tulsa’s second postseason trip.
“The San Antonio game was a big one,” said Head Coach Michael Nsien. “We knew going into the Oklahoma City match we would have some natural motivation with the history between the two clubs. With four draws in the last four times we’ve played, both teams will come out to play no matter where we are at in the table. To be able to get the San Antonio match out of the way and to get three points was a huge victory for us.”
A victory against Energy FC on Wednesday would provide added momentum for Tulsa, and a parallel to its past as the Roughnecks. The lone season in which Tulsa has claimed the four-foot wrench that serves as the trophy for the oil country rivalry was in 2017, when the likes of Joey Calistri, Juan Pablo Caffa and Joaquin Rivas powered the side’s attack.
That was also the lone season in which the Roughnecks reached the postseason, before two more seasons of struggles. If Tulsa wins the wrench it would go a long way toward edging out Austin for second place in Group D and a second trip to the USL Championship Playoffs.
For Sheldon and his teammates, though, it’s first things first.
“We’ve told ourselves that we can’t celebrate too early, there’s still games to be played,” said Sheldon. “We really have to get the results. Even though it is in our control, anything can happen. A couple of bad results for us and good results for Austin and we’re out of the playoffs. We’re taking that momentum and trying to continue that into the game against OKC.”
- “Dumb decisions” led to Andrew Carleton struggling off the field and, in the end, falling out of love with soccer. The Athletic’s Jeff Reuter spoke with the U.S. youth international about regaining that enjoyment and love for the game on loan at Indy Eleven this year, and what he hopes the future holds after the remarkable promise he showed in bursting into the national consciousness.
- The Charleston Battery start a two-game swing through Florida on Wednesday night with a visit to Miami FC and a chance to end the regular season on top of Group H. “Offensively, we’re creating a lot of chances,” Battery defender Jarad van Schaik told NBC 2’s John Barron. “Defensively, we’ve been tough to break down and get goals against. Overall, I think everyone’s been pretty happy with their performance.”
- Phoenix Rising FC has locked up its place in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs. As it visits San Diego Loyal SC on Wednesday night, it’s now looking to lock up first place in Group B and close out the regular season with two more wins to build momentum toward the postseason. Arizona Sports’ Jake Anderson has more with Rising FC Head Coach Rick Schantz as the team prepares for a big midweek clash.
- Louisville City FC has sealed first place in Group E, but according to Head Coach John Hackworth there’s still plenty of importance to Saturday’s regular-season finale against Sporting Kansas City II. WDRB’s John Lewis spoke with Hackworth about that and the club’s 10-game undefeated streak.
- New Mexico United will try to make it four wins from four against Real Monarchs SLC on Wednesday night as they look to keep their chances of overtaking El Paso Locomotive FC alive in Group C. “We want to build momentum going into the playoffs,” goalkeeper Cody Mizell told the Albuquerque Journal’s Ken Sickenger. “We also want to go get three points and keep pressure on El Paso. It’s not over yet.”
Tag(s): CO Spring Switchbacks LA Galaxy II OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Real Monarchs SLC Reno 1868 FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Philadelphia Union II Charleston Battery Louisville City FC New York Red Bulls II Las Vegas Lights FC Austin Bold FC North Carolina FC Indy Eleven El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Hartford Athletic Tacoma Defiance San Diego Loyal SC Sporting KC II The Miami FC The Morning Tea