TU Men’s Soccer Wins 4-1
After a mixed bag of performances in Wisconsin last week, the 16th-ranked Golden Hurricane men returned to the fortress and proved themselves thoroughly superior to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in their first competitive home match of the season. While the 4-1 score line ultimately flattered Kansas City, the visitors made things difficult in the opening 20 minutes. Tulsa goalkeeper Alex Lopez was allowed plenty of time on the ball, but the well-organized defensive shape of Kansas City was effective in stifling Tulsa’s attempts to build out from the back. Lopez and Fazio often resorted to long balls out to the fullbacks as creative space in the center of midfield was hard to come by. The bright spot of the game’s rugged, uneventful opening period was the performance of Dutch freshman center back Wes Bottenburg. He was efficient on the ball and calmly dealt with the speed and skill of Kansas City’s talented forward down the left end. Bottenburg appears to have filled the void left in the back line by Till Zinnhardt’s transfer to North Carolina.
The breakthrough came from a well-worked corner which caught the defense slacking. Set piece specialist Tom Protzek was alert to the run of junior transfer Sergio Baena. This led to Baena arriving unmarked from the edge of the box and playing a first-time ball to Malik Henry-Scott who tapped it in opening the scoring for the night, and his account for the 2022 season. Though not scored from open play, the goal sprang the game into life as Tulsa began to string positive passes together through the midfield and construct attacks with real menace. The midfield trio of Alvaro Torrijos, Sach and Baena found more pockets of space and took control of the game. The front three began to link up effectively with each other as one dropped in to hold the ball up and the other two made runs past him.
While the chances from open play were now flowing, it was another perfectly executed corner that doubled the hosts’ lead in the 34th minute. A deep cross found the head of Alex Meinhard who directed the ball back across the face of the goal where it fell on a platter for senior forward Thomas Wells to finish off. With the Roos’ defense on the ropes, the Golden Hurricane struck again just five minutes later. The move started with Luke Jeffus winning the ball back at his own endline and picking out Wells, who carried it from the halfway line to the edge of the box where he teed up Takayoshi Wyatt, whose first touch was perfectly weighted and finish coolly slotted past the keeper to make it three. This sent Kansas City into the break without a shred of momentum and a mountain to climb.
If there was any hope among the most loyal Kansas City fans that a miracle in Tulsa might be in store for the second half, it was swiftly put to bed thanks to a sequence of howlers from the Roos’ goalkeeper, Cooper Clarke. With a free kick in their own half, the trailing side played it back to Clarke who passed it straight to the feet of Henry Sach. The senior midfielder slid it through to Henry-Scott, who was lucky to net a second as the panicked keeper failed to keep the shot out despite getting a hand to it.
The Roos pulled a goal back at the hour mark, but it was only conciliatory as it was very much against the run of play and the game had long been buried. Kansas City continued to bleed out chances to the Golden Hurricane as time wore on and were fortunate not to concede seven or eight by the end.
Though not on the scoresheet, the standout performer of the evening was Sergio Baena. Between his pinpoint passing, graceful movement with the ball and relentless work rate, the Spaniard was simply operating at a different frequency from everyone else on the field.
It wasn’t a flawless 90 minutes, but the Tulsa men were more than deserving of the win upon their return to competitive football at home. Next up is a Labor Day clash with cross-town rivals Oral Roberts University.