By Kim DeRaedt
There’s a simple, guaranteed recipe to success in soccer. Add one or more goals together with a shutout, combine these two in the same game and you’ll have a victory in roughly 90 minutes. So simple, yet so few teams can pull the perfect victory from the oven when the final whistle sounds.
Tulsa Lobos FC, however, is the exception. With a 4-0 and 2-0 victory on the road against Club America Academy, Tulsa is proving that it deserves recognition among the Southern Premier Soccer League’s (SPSL) top dogs.
This weekend’s results come on the heels of the Lobos’ 6-0 and 2-0 sweep of Corpus Christi Fuel in the team’s first road trip. Such success is made possible only with a skilled offense and stellar defense, and Tulsa isn’t lacking in either department.
Most notably, the Lobos are crafting a shutout streak that stands at 360 minutes and counting. Captain and defender Brandon Waller and goalkeeper Hector Zapata anchor the backline and were put to the test against a Club America side in search of its first franchise goal. Tulsa Lobos FC general manager Nelson Puerta ranks his defense with the best of them.
“It’s safe to say that our defense is one of the toughest in the league,” Puerta said. “Brandon has been excellent. He’s our captain and really takes control back there. He has a keen understanding of the game and passes that along to everybody defensively.”
Waller helped contain a rapid Club America attack to seven shots on goal, and Zapata had his back every time. In the 25th minute, Club America sent a long ball to a forward standing open from 10 yards out, but Zapata reacted quickly to parry the point-blank shot over the crossbar. Another golden 1 v 1 opportunity presented itself for Club America in the 32nd minute, but Zapata was well off his line to smother the chance. He bravely claimed a cross in traffic in the 57th minute to thwart the home squad’s hopes once again.
Meanwhile, Tulsa’s offense was more than a mere spectator. Abed Elkour, who notched a goal in Saturday’s match, looked to add to his team-leading five tallies with a free kick opportunity from 20 yards out, but his bending ball ricocheted off the crossbar. Teammate Jorge Perez picked up from there and converted a header off a cross three minutes later to put his team up 1-0 in the 33rd minute. Tulsa nearly doubled its lead right before halftime; however, Club America goalkeeper Giovanni Naiemaraz alertly charged off his line to force the shot high.
The Lobos quickly dashed Club America’s hopes when play resumed in the second half with a goal in the 51st minute. There was no crossbar to stand in Elkour’s way this time as he sliced a defender and buried the ball to right from 10 yards out. Both teams exchanged quality chances in the game’s closing minutes, but stingy defense held the score line to 2-0 and secured Tulsa its fourth victory.
Not only has Tulsa demonstrated that it is a tough team, but new signings brought into play this weekend only made the club stronger. Along with goals by Elkour and Yer Yang Tou, Pedro Colina found the back of the net twice in his Lobos debut on Saturday much to the delight of Puerta.
“Our new players really came through,” Puerta said. “We thrive on teamwork and communication. Those have been two of our biggest strengths this year, and our new guys fell into sync right away.”
Sure, the Lobos have been having success on the field thus far, but the SPSL is unique. It’s about much more than wins and losses. At the heart of its mission is player development and providing standout players with the opportunity to launch and advance professional-level soccer careers. Puerta was proud to announce that the club has done just that by bidding farewell to Luis Fernando Alvarez as he embarks on his journey with the Colorado Rapids U-23 squad.
On the other side of the ball, Club America Academy, with its ties to the Mexican Primera Division organization, boasts the epitome of a player development and feeder structure. Academy coach Thiago Costa Reis doesn’t doubt that he has prodigies waiting to be sent across the border, but he reminds us that all great things come with time.
“Time, time, time,” Reis said. “That’s our biggest obstacle. We are young and we’re competing, which is very encouraging right now. With time, we will become a much greater threat, but we have to get more training and game experience under our belts first.”
Club America will have five days to train and one week’s time before it meets up with Regals FC on Nov. 27 at Maya Park in Houston. As for Tulsa, the team will have plenty of time to admire its spotless 4-0 record before hosting Galveston Pirate SC in back-to-back games on Dec. 11 and 12.
This weekend’s victories bring Tulsa Lobos FC into a three-way tie for first place along with Regals FC and Galveston Pirate SC whom also sport 4-0 records.