Photo courtesy Lori Scholl/Tulsa Roughnecks FC
With a new Head Coach in David Vaudreuil, Tulsa Roughnecks FC managed a remarkable rebuild of a side which struggled in the USL Western Conference in its first two seasons, bringing in 17 new players to create a new lineup and a new style at ONEOK Field. Those changes paid off as Tulsa managed its best season in almost every statistical category, and earned a place in the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time.
Tulsa completely changed its squad and played with some attacking flair, which entertained the fans at ONEOK Field, and saw a number of firsts. The most significant first for the fans, apart from qualifying for the postseason, was the first ever win in the Black Gold Derby series over in-state rivals OKC Energy FC. With Ian Svantesson, and Juan Pablo Caffa leading the line, Tulsa was a difficult team to beat as it produced plenty of goal-scoring power that saw the side finish the regular season with 46 goals.
Record: 14-14-4, 46pts
Place: Seventh in the Western Conference
Goals For: 46
Goals Against: 49
USL Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Quarterfinal (L 2-1 vs. San Antonio FC)
2017 leaders: Ian Svantesson (11 goals), Juan Pablo Caffa (8 assists), Fabian Cerda (86 saves)
Vaudreuil oversaw a phenomenal overhaul of the Roughnecks in the offseason, building a squad around his style and that of Argentinean playmaker Juan Pablo Caffa, who helped spur the side on to new heights in his first year in the league. Caffa's influence, and that of the likes of Joey Calistri and Collin Fernandez on loan from MLS partner the Chicago Fire, allowed the side to transform into an impressive attacking team, pushing its way to the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time. With big forward Ian Svantesson leading the line, Tulsa changed from a side which managed just five wins and 25 goals in 2016 to jump half the table, scoring almost twice as many goals, and becoming a real threat in the Western Conference on any given night.
While Tulsa conceded fewer goals in 2017, 49 compared to 64, it still proved an issue as the club looked to find consistency over the ups-and-downs the regular season brought, and meant a challenge for a place near the top of the Western Conference was out of reach. With the side conceding three-or-more goals nine times in the season, the Roughnecks were able to win just four times on the road which would prove crucial in their seventh-place finish in the regular season, forcing it to play a strong San Antonio FC on the road in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Paris Gee's first goal for the Roughnecks couldn't have been better, as he seized upon a half-cleared free kick by San Antonio FC, moved the ball to his right to open space, then hit a long range shot from more than 30 yards out of the reach of SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to stun the crowd at Toyota Field.
In a Black Gold Derby, Roughnecks goalkeeper Fabian Cerda got down well to turn away a header off a corner kick from the left side to the back post, getting enough of his hand down to put the ball out for a corner.