As San Antonio FC gets set to take on the Tulsa Roughnecks in Saturday’s Western Conference Quarterfinal match, I wanted to take a deeper look at SAFC’s opponent. Who better than Roughnecks play-by-play man Jeremie Poplin, who gave me his thoughts on the match up and sort of gave a prediction.
1.) Tulsa has struggled against SAFC all-time, winning just one match on penalty kicks. What is it about San Antonio that gives the Roughnecks so much trouble?
I throw out last season for the simple reason of Tulsa just not being good, downright awful if you just want to be honest. This season has been much better. I know the results haven’t been there outside of the open cup, but Coach likes the matchup. The June game at Toyota was after Swope on Sunday and then the Open Cup at Dallas on a Wednesday, with SAFC on the Saturday of the same week. Tyrpak (Roughneck Killer) had the soft early goal and Tulsa started on their heels. Took them a while to adjust at midfield after getting caught between sitting back and pressing in areas they shouldn’t have. There was a gap a mid that allowed for the first two goals. Tulsa just couldn’t finish in that game. A brilliant chance to level at two and then a minute later, a huge mistake at midfield found Green all alone that started that sequence for the Vega goal. Tulsa missed 6 clear chances from the 82nd minute through the end of stoppage time. Poorly timed runs and angles left Tulsa with zero points. Coach Vaud felt they outplayed SAFC, but just didn’t get a result. Forbes and Tyrpak on the wing, with a strong midfield have given Tulsa problems for sure. Tulsa hasn’t done well with the counter at times this season and SAFC caught them multiple times. Oh, and Restrepo is so good. I just finished my ballot for the season awards and he absolutely got some love from me.
2.) The Roughnecks are coming into Toyota Field to face a San Antonio club that seems to be peaking at the right time. How will the addition of Ever Guzman for SAFC change Tulsa’s strategy on defense?
I’m as interested in this as anyone. They made it a point to mark Forbes tightly in SA, but said all week that they can’t give Tyrpak any space. He has the unique ability to just score and look what happened. Guzman has been phenomenal so far in SA. They one area of weakness was not having a pure goal scorer and he is the definition of that so far. It doesn’t bode well for a struggling back line for Tulsa that has already struggled with guys like Dane Kelly. Tulsa should try the same strategy as June with sitting back early on, but they can’t have the breakdowns at mid and they must close down space. They did that against Drogba at home. Played physical and punished him for every touch. I honestly believe they have to have that mindset on Saturday.
3.) In your opinion, what is SAFC’s biggest weakness that Tulsa will try to exploit in the match?
Joey Calistri has played extremely well against SAFC this season. Tulsa has attacked the left side of the SA defense with confidence in the games this season. Caffa, Corrales, and Calistri have been the biggest threat to SA thus far. Corrales has been able to get in behind on several instances and has developed a great chemistry with Joey and Juan. Tulsa feels like they can continue to create good chances, but they have to finish. You have seen them break down the backline, but the finishing just hasn’t been good enough.
4.) What does Tulsa have to do to shock the soccer world and get the upset win over San Antonio?
I can tell you that Coach Vaud wouldn’t view it as a shock. He really likes the matchup with SAFC. Tulsa just has to play their game. This is a side that dominated possession in several losses this season. They have found a way to have to majority of the ball in most games, but have the tendency to let in soft goals. The defense has struggled over the last several weeks and I just wonder if that is because of the grind from a long season. Tulsa needs to be aggressive in the offensive third and not be passive. Make San Antonio defend, get numbers into the box, and take advantage of opportunities. They felt like they outplayed SAFC in June and missed several chances after allowing the early goal. They have to find a way to negate touches from Guzman. They were able to do that against Drogba at home, but Dane Kelly and guys like Tyrpak have given them a difficult time.
5.) What is your prediction for the match?
I am worried about how the back line has looked over the last couple of weeks. They have allowed far too much space at times for guys near 18 and have let run after run in behind them on a consistent basis as of late. If they can close down, I really like their chances. I can’t pick a winner at this point, so maybe you will let me off the hook if I drop “Go Spurs Go”????