Photo courtesy of Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Tulsa Roughnecks FC underwent a difficult 2016 season on the pitch, but some changes both internally and on a grander scale are bringing optimism toward the organization.
During the 2016 USL Winter Summit, Roughnecks General Manager Mike Melega expressed some renewed hope that the club is putting the pieces in place for a rebound campaign.
For starters, former MLS midfielder and defender David Vaudreuil has been brought in as Head Coach, taking over the role previously held by David Irving, who is now the club’s technical director.
“He’s got big plans and a great network, so we’re excited for what he’s going to bring to the table for us,” Melega said of Vaudreuil. “It brings credibility to what we’re trying to do. He’s well connected and he’s got experience at all different levels. He’s very in tune with the caliber of play that it’s going to take to be successful.”
The Roughnecks are banking on a 180-degree turn on the field after a last-place finish in the Western Conference, the lowest-scoring offense (25 goals in 30 games) and a defense that conceded a league-high 64 tallies.
Though results did not pan out for Tulsa, the club is in a good position based in the middle of the country, which has turned into a prime locale among some exciting regional USL play.
“It’s great to see more expansion in the Midwest and in the Southwest,” Melega said. “There are more natural rivalries for us. We’ve got a great relationship and rivalry with OKC Energy FC; San Antonio, we’re developing a great relationship with them, and Tim Holt’s always been a friend of our organization since we came in; Saint Louis, Kansas City – it’s exciting to hear there’s more teams potentially coming into our region. It’s great for our fans, because they like to travel.”
ONEOK Field continues to serve as Tulsa’s home venue, and some nice upgrades are going to be in place with a new scoreboard bar. It should prove to be another positive way for fans to enjoy Roughnecks games.
In the grander scheme, though, the Roughnecks are continuing to have dialogue toward a soccer-specific locale down the road.
“The ultimate objective is to get into our own soccer-specific venue – it’s a league objective, of course, and if that is to happen, I think it would be fantastic for Tulsa soccer,” Melega said. “We’ve got a tremendous history and tradition there. ONEOK Field is a terrific venue, there’s no question, but there are good talks and discussions.
“It is on the radar in our business community, and hopefully that will continue to progress in the next couple of years.”
Reporting by Nicholas Murray