TULSA – A late goal again decided an FC Tulsa match, but on Saturday night at ONEOK Field, it didn't fall in Tulsa's favor as Birmingham Legion equalized in the 80' minute to earn a 1-1 draw and end Tulsa's five-match winning streak.
While it wasn't the full three points, FC Tulsa's draw extended its unbeaten streak to a season-best six matches and continued to create separation towards the top of the Central Division. Tulsa still trails Birmingham by two points for the coveted second place spot in the division that comes with a home playoff match. While the sides won't meet again in 2021, each still has nine matches left to play and everything is still to be decided.
The match started brightly for FC Tulsa, and just like in the previous five matches, FC Tulsa found the scoresheet first. Like he's done since joining FC Tulsa five weeks ago, forward Jason Johnson created the first goal of the match, getting free in the box during a cross. To prevent the wide open attempt, Birmingham defender Ryan James pulled down Johnson, making for a simple penalty call.
Suárez made no mistake on his second penalty of the week as he beat Birmingham keeper Trevor Spangenberg in the 29'. It marked the fifth match in the last that Suárez appeared on the scoresheet with a goal or an assist. From the spot, Suárez is automatic so far in 2021, converting all three opportunities he's taken.
FC Tulsa defended its net bravely throughout the next 50 minutes until second half substitute J.J. Williams equalized on a header that dinked off the far post and across the line.
It wasn't until the final kick of the match that FC Tulsa had a chance to take all three points. A corner kick in the waning seconds of stoppage time taken by Lebo Moloto found the head of Marlon, whose attempt skimmed over the top of the net.
Here are three takeaways from the 1-1 draw.
1) SUPER DARÍO AGAIN FROM THE SPOT
It was the second straight match that Darío Suárez stepped up to the penalty spot in a tie match, and for the second time, the Cuban dynamo converted. While the goal didn't come in the 89' minute like Wednesday's, it did continue the trend of Tulsa netting the first tally.
Super Darío has now matched his 2020 goal mark with eight goals in 2021. Suárez's 16 goals over the two seasons are the most during that span for FC Tulsa.
2) DEFENSE COMES UP BIG
While Birmingham scored a late equalizer, FC Tulsa held the fort against a potent Birmingham attack. Legion FC put up 20 shots, however only four reached the target with the long equalizer going over the line.
Defender Johnny Fenwick was a midseason addition to the FC Tulsa roster, but the Brit has been solid as a substitute off the bench for Tulsa. He made his most extensive Tulsa appearance to date, playing the entire second half. He had six clearances in 45 minutes, by far the most on the squad.
3) MOLOTO MAKES MAGIC
Midfielder Lebo Moloto continued his creation in the center of the pitch with five chances created, the most for any player on either team. Moloto nearly had an assist on his final touch of the match when his corner found the head of Marlon, but his shot skimmed the top of the net.
Despite the midfield magician missing the first nine matches of the season due to injury, Moloto has created 27 chances in his 14 matches played, the most on the team during that time.
FC Tulsa returns to ONEOK Field next Saturday to take on Austin Bold FC on 918 Day. It's the second out of four "non-division" matchups for FC Tulsa in 2021 as Austin is the Mountain Division of the Western Conference. Tulsa played Austin three times in 2020 and the sides drew all three times.