For Rodrigo da Costa, goalkeeper Sean Lewis and their FC Tulsa teammates, the 2021 home opener Saturday was very similar to the 2020 finale at ONEOK Field.
In both instances, da Costa had a goal and assist in the first half while Lewis recorded a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory. On this occasion, the opponent was Sporting Kansas City II, a team that had never lost to Tulsa in nine previous meetings.
Going back to last season, FC Tulsa (2-0, 6 points) is unbeaten in a franchise-record nine consecutive regular-season games. FC Tulsa’s last regular-season loss was 2-1 to SKC II last Aug. 29 when a controversial call resulted in a tying goal in the final moments being waved off.
“The most painful (of the losses to SKC) was last year at home — our only home loss,” FC Tulsa coach Michael Nsien said. “All week we talked about it, there’s no way they come here and get a point, it’s impossible. The attitude was good from the start. The leaders really made sure they amplified that on the field.”
FC Tulsa ensured this match wouldn’t be decided in the final moments as it scored twice in the first 25 minutes while SKC II rarely threatened during the entire night as Lewis was required to only make one save.
In the 14th minute, da Costa opened the scoring with a left-footed one-timer from the center of the box off a pass from Jorge Corrales, who assisted on the first goal just as he did in a 3-1 win in the opener at Oklahoma City.
“My teammates trust me,” said Corrales, who was in his first regular-season game for Tulsa at ONEOK Field since 2017.
For da Costa, scoring ONEOK Field’s first goal of the year was another “first” as he had FC Tulsa’s opening goal of the 2020 season. He nearly had the team’s first goal of 2021 in the opener at Oklahoma City, but it was waved off due to an offside call.
“I’m really happy to get the first goal and first assist already,” da Costa said. “You see the chemistry of the team, the chemistry is there. We are moving the ball well and we should just improve from there.”
Dario Suarez’s second goal of the season increased Tulsa’s lead to 2-0, set up by da Costa, in the 25th minute. SKC II’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Krenecki made only his third USL Championship start.
A crowd of 4,241 celebrated after the game with the FC Tulsa players.
“It was a good crowd and I think everybody was happy at the end,” da Costa said. “I think we did a good job.
“We saw a lot of improvement and want to keep improving every single game.”
The best scoring chance for SKC II, which was playing its season opener, came in the 63rd minute when Grayson Barber’s shot from the penalty arc clanked off the left post. Last week, FC Tulsa let a shutout slip away in the final 20 minutes.
“I know our defenders and other players were apologetic to Sean last game, that’s what keepers live for — the clean sheet,” Nsien said. “So when we got into crunch time, after 70 minutes or so, it was like ‘buckle down, we can’t give up anything,’ — that’s the attitude.”
FC Tulsa’s next four matches are on the road, starting with the Indy Eleven on May 8, before returning home to face SKC II again on June 16.
“Right now we’ve showed we can compete at a high level,” Nsien said.
FC Tulsa 2, Sporting KC II 0
Sporting KC II 0 0— 0
Tulsa -2 0 — 2
Goals: Tulsa, da Costa 1 (Corrales) 14’, Suarez 2 (da Costa) 25’. Shots: SKC 7, Tulsa 13. Saves: SKC, Krenecki 3; Tulsa, Lewis 1. Fouls: SKC 14, Tulsa 16. Yellow cards: SKC, Cisneros, Freeman; Tulsa, Bourgeois, Bird, Kiesewetter. A: 4,241.