OKC FC Claimed Victory in the First Showing of the 2021 WPSL Campaign Between the Two Oklahoma Heavyweights - A Feat OKC Hasn't Achieved Since 2018
Published Jun 13, 2021
Photo Credits:  Ron Lane, June 12 - OKC FC host Tulsa SC, Jaci Jones Dribbles Through Tulsa SC Defense

New home stadium, hosting in-state rivals, and extreme heat made for an interesting start to the 2021 season for Oklahoma City FC. At kickoff, the temperature was 90 degrees with a heat index registering at 102 degrees. Both teams matched that temperature with a match full of chances, aggressive play, and a bit of controversy as Oklahoma City ended Tulsa’s two-match clean sheet streak in a 1-0 victory.


The first half was back and forth, and challenges made helped the match live up to the rivalry.


In the fifth minute, Oklahoma City was fouled five yards outside of the penalty area. Their free-kick attempt went over the crossbar, which was a trend for both sides in the scoreless first 45 minutes.


Tulsa SC had fewer opportunities than the home side in the first half, but chances arose per Oklahoma City mistakes. The first 10 minutes saw two Tulsa midfield interceptions that turned into a shot on goal that Oklahoma goalkeeper, Amber Lockwood, stopped and another off-target.


The home side cleaned up those early errant passes and began playing fluidly through the midfield, which created opportunity. Calming down their excitement is something Oklahoma City head coach, Danny Gibson, worked on with his side in training.


At times we were, even in the scrimmage games, wanting to go forward and break the lines,” said Gibson. “We talked patience, put the foot on the ball, and chose our times to break the line. When we did that, we were able to pull their backline up and get some runners behind.”


Tulsa goalkeeper, Peyton Pearson, dismantled that Oklahoma City momentum, stopping those OKC runs multiple times. The Kansas State University keeper made three game-changing saves with the biggest coming in the 26th minute as Oklahoma midfielder, Yuuka Kurosaki, timed a run perfectly and took the breakaway onto the net, but not past Pearson.


It wasn’t just Pearson making saves but having the support of her defensive backline helping stop the abundance of Oklahoma City pressure just as defender, Charmé Morgan, did by making a shot-saving tackle in Tulsa’s defensive penalty area in the 15th minute.


For the remaining 15 minutes of the first half, Tulsa became the team with the opportunities. Their offensive momentum made for more shots, crosses into the box, and fouls by Oklahoma City to slow them down.


In the 38th minute, Oklahoma City midfielder, Lauren Haivala, stopped a Tulsa break while earning a yellow card in the process – It would be the first of many cards that would carry over into the second half.


The final 45 minutes started with strong on-field emotion, which carried through till the end.


Tulsa winger, Bri Amos, took the ball down the sideline while fighting off Oklahoma City veteran midfielder, Jaci Jones before a heavy touch caused the ball to go out of play as Jones’ feet tangled with Amos, causing both to go to the ground.


When Jones got up and attempted to walk over Amos, the Tulsa forward appeared to trip the OKC midfielder. The referee gave Jones a yellow card, much to the confusion of the home crowd that gave the head referee constructive criticism from the bleachers.


More officiating confusion came in the 67th minute, but this time the Oklahoma City fans weren’t upset as the referee stopped play for an OKC foul in the Tulsa defensive third.  Slowing down the free-kick attempt, an OKC forward backheeled a ball as she moved upfield to defend the kick. With the referee’s back turned, Tulsa’s Reagan Whitlow took the backheeled ball and kicked it towards the area where the play was blown dead. Intercepting Whitlow’s pass and shooting over the head of Tulsa’s goalkeeper was high school midfielder, Samantha Guzman.


The goal was initially awarded to Oklahoma City, but shortly after the three referees on the field deliberated due to the head referee’s back being turned when the pass took place. After less than a minute, the goal stood, and Oklahoma City went ahead 1-0.


After the match, Tulsa coach Mike Schwarz described what he saw.


I’ll have to go back and watch the film but when a player plays the ball and nobody on the team reacts, that’s a pretty telltale sign that we weren’t putting it back in play,” said Schwarz. “But those are the breaks, right? Regroup and train hard this week in preparation for our next 3 games.”


Tulsa had a lion's share of the chances in the remaining 20 minutes of the match as the urgency level rose on Schwarz’s side from being down a goal. Their best chance to equalize came in extra time as forward Parker Goins received a pass behind her in the box and while attempting to get it on her front foot to shoot, it got caught under her body as she went to the ground. The subsequent shot was deflected by the Oklahoma City defense.


For the first time since 2018, The scissortails beat Tulsa.


Both teams fought a miserable heat and added another memorable page to the story of their rivalry. An extra reason to celebrate is that it was Gibson’s first match as head coach of Oklahoma City FC.


Enjoyed that first. We’re delighted,” said Gibson. “We obviously came in knowing that Tulsa had that two-game head start on us. We were quietly comfortable coming in. They were looking strong and looking dangerous.” 



In their next matches, Tulsa welcomes FC Dallas and Oklahoma City FC travels to Texas to face off against Southstar FC - both matches start at 7:00 p.m. CT on Eleven Sports.



   Author:  Thomas Costello,  @1thomascostello (twitter)
                WPSL Contributor - Central Region