FC Tulsa is Winless on the Road No More following a 2-0 shutout in Birmingham
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – All season long, the narrative surrounding FC Tulsa was that it could not win on the road. It had been 322 days since the club’s last road win, dating back to September 3, 2021 at Louisville City. But on Saturday night, that narrative, along with that streak, was laid to rest as FC Tulsa commanded the attention of the rest of the USL Championship with a 2-0 shutout at Birmingham Legion FC, proving this season is far from over.
It was FC Tulsa that opened the scoring on the road and put itself in a position to dictate the remainder of the match in just the 16′ minute. Sean McFarlane was able to dispossess the opposition as Birmingham tried to advance the ball from the back and step into some space down the right flank. The Jamaican wingback picked his head up, scanned the danger area, and found Lebo Moloto unmarked at the top of the arc. Moloto sent in a bender to beat one of the best keepers in the USL Championship, Matt Van Oekel, for his first goal of the season and the 31st of his USL Championship career.
Several big stops by Austin Wormell over the following 15 minutes kept Legion FC off the scoreboard as FC Tulsa’s central midfielders stayed close to its backline and looked to counter whenever it had the opportunity. Rodrigo da Costa and Brian Brown were both found on multiple occasions making runs behind while Birmingham had men forward, but Legion FC was able to recover and get back each time.
The closing moments of the first half saw both teams throw men forward, sacrificing defense in search of one more goal before the whistle blew. Both clubs earned their looks, but could not guide the final touch into the back of the net. Birmingham outshot FC Tulsa 14 to 5 through the first 45 minutes, but each put the same number of attempts on target with three apiece.
Birmingham opened the second half on the front foot, dominating 62% of the possession but only managing two shots for its efforts through the first 14 minutes of the half. Then everything changed in the 59′ minute when Legion FC defender Ryan James picked up his second yellow card of the match and was sent off following a late challenge on Rodrigo da Costa.
FC Tulsa earned a fantastic look to double its lead over Legion FC in the 64′ minute when da Costa whipped in a beauty from the right side, picking out Brian Brown at the back post. Brown got his head to the service and positioned himself to beat the keeper, but his shot banged off the crossbar and kept the score at 1-0.
The looks continued to mount for FC Tulsa, and it was only a matter of time before it bagged one more. The final nail in Birmingham’s coffin came in the 90+2′ minute, courtesy of FC Tulsa’s leading scorer.
The play began with Eric Bird dispossessing a Legion FC player in the midfield once again as he sent the ball up to Darío Suárez. Super Darío went on a miraculous run down the middle of the pitch with the ball at his feet, splitting two defenders and circling around a third. Before the Birmingham defense knew what had struck it, FC Tulsa had a 2-on-1 with Suárez on the right and JJ Williams in the middle against the goalkeeper. Suárez ripped a shot on goal which was parried by Van Oekel, but only as far as JJ Williams who slotted home the sitter and secured all three points for FC Tulsa on the road.
Austin Wormell kept his third clean sheet of the season as the club will look to carry its newfound momentum north to Pittsburgh next weekend as the streak is finally over – FC Tulsa is no longer winless away from ONEOK.
Below are three takeaways from tonight’s 2-0 shutout.
1) Another Late Goal
Coming into Saturday night, FC Tulsa had scored four times against Birmingham Legion FC beyond the 84′ minute in five matches against the Alabama side. JJ Williams added another to that total with his score against his former team in the 90+2′ minute as FC Tulsa moved to 4W-1L-1D against Legion FC all-time.
2) Lebo Adds Another
Lebo Moloto is already one of the most prolific players in USL Championship history, and he added another goal to his resume on Saturday night. It was the South African’s first goal of the season and the 31st of his USL Championship career (including playoffs). Earlier this season, Moloto became the eighth player in USL Championship history to score 30 goals and rack up 30 assists in league play.
3) Perfect Counter-Attack
After going up early in the 16′ minute, FC Tulsa was happy to sit back and defend its lead for the majority of the match. However, it was not passive on the attacking end. FC Tulsa played the counter-attack to perfection on Saturday night, possessing the ball for only 39.3% of the match but finding fast-break opportunities and unleashing seven shots on goal compared to Birmingham’s four. Legion FC outshot Tulsa 19 to 13, but only managed to put 21.1% of its attempts on target due to Tulsa’s stingy defending.
FC Tulsa’s second of three consecutive road matches awaits the club next Saturday in the Steel City as it matches up with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The first meeting between the two sides this season was a high-scoring affair back on April 9 with seven goals scored at ONEOK Field, but Riverhounds SC left Tulsa with all three points following a 4-3 finish.