JJ Williams Nets a Brace in his First Start with FC Tulsa
TULSA – FC Tulsa defender Gabi Torres is trying to etch his place on the USL Championship Team of the Week permanently. His teammate JJ Williams might be joining him. Coming off back-to-back league honors, Torres scored his first goal in a Tulsa uniform while Williams had a brace to lead FC Tulsa to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over New York Red Bulls II on Saturday night at ONEOK Field.
The match started with a bang as the Red Bulls II keeper, Giannis Nikopolidis, who was making his first start of the season, came outside the area, pulling down FC Tulsa keeper JJ Williams on a breakaway. An immediate red was shown by the center referee and Red Bulls II was down to 10 men and a backup keeper for the final 88 minutes of the match.
Playing undermanned, Red Bulls II remained unphased and piled early pressure onto Tulsa, scoring the opening goal 17 minutes into the match on a long-range strike which beat Sean Lewis. It was only the second goal scored for Red Bulls II in five matches this season.
It didn’t take long for Tulsa to answer as JJ Williams was again in alone on goal after a pin-point ball over the top from Torres. Without being pulled down, Williams was able to finish his chance, equalizing in the 20′ minute for his first goal in a FC Tulsa uniform.
It was Torres again involved in Tulsa’s second just five minutes later. Midfielder Lebo Moloto swung a ball to Torres’ feet as the Brazilian raced down the left side. Torres finished the chance at the near post for his first Tulsa goal to go along with the assist.
The second half started with a different kind of bang from the first. Less than 30 seconds after the second half whistle blew, FC Tulsa made it three. With his first touch of the night after subbing on at halftime, winger Joaquín Rivas found Williams in the box. The 6’5′ forward used his height to win the header, directing the ball into the net for the 3-1 lead.
New York wouldn’t die easily however as the visitors found a second midway through the second half when a shot that Lewis had a bead on was inadvertently deflected by the foot of Johnny Fenwick. With Lewis diving the other way, the ball slid by, cutting the deficit back to one.
Despite numerous second half chances to widen the lead, FC Tulsa would have to settle for the 3-2 victory in front of over 4,000 at ONEOK Field on Saturday night, the third consecutive home victory to start the season.See below for three quick takeaways from the match.
1) BRACE YOURSELF FOR JJ
FC Tulsa head coach Michael Nsien tweaked the Starting XI, inserting forward JJ Williams up top for his first start of the season. The American striker repaid his coach’s faith with his first two goals of the season, to match the team lead in goals this season. It’s his second career USL Championship match with a brace after scoring twice in his 2019 debut with Birmingham Legion FC on April 14, 2019, also a 3-2 win.
2) MOLOTO MAKES HISTORY
Lebo Moloto’s assist on Gabi Torres’s goal will go down in the record books as Moloto’s 30th career assist. With 31 goals scored in his league career, Moloto becomes just the eighth player in league history to join the 30/30 club and the first to do it in an FC Tulsa uniform. Moloto is in his eighth year in the USL Championship.
Gabi Torres is making a case as one of the USL Championship’s premier left backs. With a goal tonight and a near assist (the ball barely deflected off a defender before finding the feet of Williams), Torres is staring down a third consecutive Team of the Week honor. Torres is the first defender to score for FC Tulsa this season and became the sixth FC Tulsa player with a goal this season.
This week, for the first time in its new era, FC Tulsa will compete in the U.S. Open Cup. The nation’s oldest soccer tournament for teams competing at all levels of the playing pyramid, returns for 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. FC Tulsa’s first match will be Tuesday night at ONEOK Field as the club takes on amateur NPSL team Tulsa Athletic. It will be the first-ever matchup between the sides. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.