Consecutive draws with rivals Tyler FC Kings and FF Premier has been a sign that the middle third of the season isn't going to be nearly as perfect as the initial third (5-0-0). It has also seen the two aforementioned clubs gain a small amount of ground on TA20. All of this added together meant getting three points away to Arkansas Wolves would be vital in keeping Tyler and FFP at bay.
The match started well for young Athletic as they managed to create a few half chances through having the lion's share of possession. Wolves remained compact at the back and seemed content to counter-attack their younger opponents. In the 43rd minute, against the run of play, the ball caromed unluckily off of the arm of defender Elvis Barclay inside of the penalty area and Wolves were awarded a penalty. Joe Adkins was the man who scored Wolves' penalty on opening day, so he was called upon again to attempt to repeat the task. Adkins kept his nerve, this time giving the home side a lead as the half neared. Tulsa have shown time and time again that they are not rattled when conceding a goal. A trait that is so important. As the half wandered into stoppage time Gabe Ontiveros whipped a fine cross just past the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper for sniper Jack Bratcher to head...or should we say "face" home. The tally, Bratcher's third of the season, ended a mini-drought for the young striker and saw the teams enter the half level.
Tulsa were very quick to pick up where they had left off in the first half. Good spells of possession alongside organized pressure schemes started to take a toll on the home side. Though the possession had been very good, it was actually a direct ball over the top from Brooks Bonnalie that put TA20's top marksman Keith Peterson in one on one with the goalkeeper. Peterson stuck to the script and fired home his fifth of the season to give young Athletic their first lead in the 65th minute. Xander Quiroga was sent on at halftime to replace the excellent Nolan Cosgrove in goal. Quiroga was called into action early and come out to win a crucial challenge at the feet of the attacker. He came up big late, turning another shot aside as well.
"It could be a big month for Xander." said coach Levi Coleman
"He'll be in goal in the Sam Shannon Cup, so November could be a great time for him to get stuck in and show his class. It was also great to see that we have depth at every position. He did well."
Five minutes after Tulsa had taken a one goal lead, they doubled it. A quick throw in found Fernando Saldana. Saldana found Bratcher wide left, who beat defender Irving Cuadron and then expertly cut across him, immediately forcing contact. The referee quickly pointed to the penalty spot and the ever confident Fernando Saldana stepped up. Saldana channeled his inner Antonin Panenka (basically threw a change-up in baseball terms) and Wolves goalkeeper Matt Ward could only look on in despair as his early guess meant that he had dove too far and the ball slowly floated in to double the TA20 lead. Tulsa looked very steady in the final 20 minutes and cruised home with the three points.
The boys will get the weekend off as the other four teams in the Red River conference lock horns and TA20 is the odd man out. TA20 returns to action Nov. 17th at 2:00 pm at the Union Soccer Complex Championship field. As always, it's free to watch. Come support the boys taking one step closer to another championship!
AW- Adkins '43
TA20- Bratcher(3) '45 (Ontiveros)
TA 20- Peterson(5) '65 (Bonnalie)
TA20- Saldana (5) '70 (PK)