FC Tulsa to Face the Hounds as the Underdogs Tomorrow Night
TULSA – It isn’t very often that one result in July feels like it changes the entire trajectory of a season that ends in October. However, FC Tulsa’s 2-0 blanking of Birmingham Legion FC last weekend feels like it did just that. Now the club travels north to make it two-in-a-row against perennial playoff favorites Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
The two clubs met for the first time in the history of either program back in April, but it was the Hounds who claimed all three points. April was a long time ago, though, and both clubs have gone through a lot of change over the past three months. FC Tulsa has a new coach in charge, a new formation, and five new additions to its active roster that were elsewhere the last time they met. Tulsa is also more content to focus on sitting men back and counter-attacking than it was early in the season, a tactic the club executed to perfection on the road at Birmingham.
FC Tulsa heads into the weekend just six points out of playoff position with 12 matches left to go in the season. Pittsburgh is undefeated at home this season with a 7W-0L-1D record, but FC Tulsa has shown of late that it certainly has what it takes to hand the Hounds its first home loss of the season in Tulsa’s first-ever trip to Highmark Stadium.
The Tulsa backline has only conceded 10 goals over its last nine matches, a far cry from the 30 goals it had allowed over its first 13 matches of 2022. Immediate impacts from wingbacks Sean McFarlane and Noah Powder have anchored the flanks and provided consistent service into the box – McFarlane has already notched two assists through four starts and the two have combined for seven chances created.
FC Tulsa appears to be peaking at just the right time. Playoff talk is becoming more frequent, the weight of every match is increasing, and Tulsa’s numbers are on the rise.
Kickoff from Pittsburgh is set for 6:00 p.m. CT.
SCOUTING RIVERHOUNDS SC
Coming into the match in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the start of play, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC has consistently been near the top of the Conference all season. The club dipped a bit in the standings after losing three straight in June, but has rebounded nicely with four wins and a draw over its last five outings.
The Hounds are middle of the pack in both goals conceded and goals scored this season, but have one of the most versatile attacks and spread the ball around better than just about anyone in the USL Championship. Kenardo Forbes is tied for the league lead with eight assists, newly acquired Robbie Mertz from Atlanta United 2 has seven assists, and Hugh Alexander Dixon has six, proving offense can come from anywhere with this Pittsburgh side.
THREE THINGS TO NOTE
1) High-Scoring Affair
The first meeting between FC Tulsa and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on April 9 was the highest-scoring match for either club of the season with seven goals total. A rare 1 p.m. CT start at ONEOK Field saw Pittsburgh open the scoring with two goals in the first 14 minutes of the match. Its lead would extend to 4-1 before FC Tulsa nearly pulled off an improbable comeback with goals from JJ Williams in the 80’ minute and Rodrigo da Costa in the 85’. In stoppage time, FC Tulsa earned a free kick from a dangerous distance as the entire Tulsa crowd stood to its feet, but da Costa put it just over the bar to cement the 4-3 finish.
2) Forward for Forward
On Wednesday, FC Tulsa announced it had traded forward JJ Williams to Phoenix Rising FC in exchange for midfielder/winger Marcus Epps. While Epps scored just once and logged two assists with a Phoenix club that has struggled mightily in 2022, he is only one season removed from a 2021 campaign with San Antonio FC that saw Epps score six goals, come up with five assists, and lead the club in appearances (32), starts (30), and minutes (2,633). Epps has three years of MLS experience between stints with the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls and has scored 20 goals to pair with 16 assists over his USL Championship career.
3) Clean Sheet x4
FC Tulsa logged its fourth clean sheet of the season last Saturday at Legion FC, its first on the road, and three of those clean sheets have been attributed to goalkeeper Austin Wormell. In 10 starts this season for Tulsa, the 24-year-old has posted a 78% save pct. and has improved his save tally to the 14th best in the USL Championship with 39.
HOW TO WATCH
Fans in Tulsa can be sure to catch all the action by tuning in locally to My41 Tulsa, and anyone can stream the match nationally on ESPN+. Be sure to follow @FC Tulsa for match updates, highlights, polls, and more on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!