NPSL Matchday 6: FC Wichita v Tulsa Athletics

It was the clash of the titans, as two of the top five NPSL teams in nation faced off this week in Wichita. FC Wichita being ranked number three after winning 13 of their last 14 matches leading back into last season, and Tulsa after winning four games straight after a tough start to the season.

However, the one loss that FCW did lose in that 14-game stretch? 11 months ago exactly, to Tulsa Athletics.

Both teams came into this one knowing that it was going to be a tough match, with both teams averaging around three goals a game and not budging much on the defensive end either. There were some significant changes from FCW head coach John Markey, as Vue and Hobson were preferred in midfield to the two stalwarts from the Texas road trip, Barry and Contreras. Also, Nick Cramer was awarded his first start, along with Vue. This was Cramer’s first appearance of the regular season.

The first 15 minutes of the game seemed to be a pendulum, swinging from decent spells of possession from either team. But it was FCW who had the first major chance of the game, with Cantor slamming the ball against the post after great work from Osterloh to drag back for the Oral Roberts man.

After a goal-line clearance from Kevin Ten Eyck, the breakthrough came in the form of a set piece. A corner was swung in by Hobson and Leo Sosa was first to it, who bagged his second goal of the regular season. The Brazilian was a standout for FC Wichita in the middle of the park, creating and defending when he was called upon.

Only three minutes later, right-back Yann Martinez, whose deliveries had been quality all day, put in a perfect cross to Osterloh in the box. However, the striker could only head wide from a pretty good chance.

A few scattered chances from Cantor, Osterloh, and Kyei highlighted the next 15 minutes, but it was Dave Leung that ended up being the next goalscorer. The equalizer was a flicked on header, with Weir coming out and getting stranded, not being able to get a fist to the ball.

After this goal went in, it just seemed to go downhill from there for the home team. Martinez went down hard after a cleats up challenge from a Tulsa defender, and was forced off at the interval.

And then right before half-time, the Tulsa players reversed roles, as Leung assisted A. Schmoker to make it 2-1 to the visitors. The momentum had definitely shifted to the Athletics, whose head coach Joey Ryan was sure to be very happy with his boys snagging the lead before the break.

Changes were forced for Markey after the Martinez injury, with Hobson shifting back to right-back and hometown-hero Chris Lemons coming on in the midfield.

FCW did seem to try and apply pressure at the beginning of the second half, but around ten minutes in, it was Tulsa who would extend their lead. Goveia stroked it beautifully with the inside of his right foot into Weir’s right hand corner.

And any hope of repeated heroics like they did against Dallas City was extinguished when a long ball put Cramer one on one against Thomas, who slipped on his way back, and gifted the Athletics striker with a fourth goal of the night for the visitors. Cramer was then withdrawn two minutes later. Not an ideal first start for the local lad.

Markey sent on Barry, Contreras and Pinto on with about 25 minutes to go. Fresh legs was a good thing for a midfield that was being forced to work for everything, but Tulsa just wouldn’t ever let FCW truly get back into the game.

A glimmer of hope was there for the home team, as Barry drew a penalty for the boys in red. Sosa stepped up and buried it to complete his brace. FCW had scored two goals in two minutes before, so why not with ten minutes remaining?

However, it was not meant to be.

FC Wichita suffered only its fourth loss in two seasons, and their first of the 2016 one. Although this loss will be tough for them to take, this still leaves them in poll position moving forward, having only dropped three points thus far. Both Tulsa and Houston Dutch Lions have dropped 5 points thus far.

But it only gets harder for the boys in red, as they face two top four sides in a three day span, with Shreveport (who handed Tulsa their only loss of the season) and HDL on the 17th and 19th, respectively.

Man of the Match: FCW - Leo Sosa – The Brazilian midfielder had a standout performance in a game which didn’t feature many for the home team. The holding midfielder picked up a yellow early, and showed impressive discipline and smart defending to make sure he lasted the full 90 minutes. Not only did he deputize as a defender at multiple times during the game, but he also managed to get on the scoresheet twice. Performances like are ones which remind everyone why he is such a valuable piece to this FC Wichita puzzle.

Man of the Match: TA - Dave Leung – The tough striker showed what a classy player he is, using his strength, vision, and finishing ability to really put Tulsa ahead in the last 15 minutes of the first half. Playing both scorer and provider for their first two goals, Leung was the most impressive player on the pitch for the visitors.

Colin Johnson