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Tulsa Roughnecks FC 2016 USL season preview

Lori Scholl

Year founded: 2013
Affiliation: Independent
2015 record, standing in conference: 11-11-6, 7th in the Western Conference
2015 playoffs: Did not qualify

Key additions: Kaleemullah Khan, Taylor Morgan, Adriano Pellegrino
Key departures: Chad Bond, Zac Lubin

After missing out on the playoffs by only three points in their inaugural season, the Tulsa Roughnecks look to come out strong for the opening of the club's second year. Seven players from the 2015 team are returning, leaving a lot of room for Coach David Irving to acquire new talent for the 2016 season. Irving took the offseason to find experienced players that could help some of the younger players from his team last year. Not only did he find veteran USL players (Martinez and Kaleemullah) but also guys who have played around the world (Whatley, Pellegrino, and Cennerazzo).

This year, the team has been busy with 8 preseason games, 4 of which were in Florida. The team took second in a tournament hosted by Jacksonville Armada of the NASL. The Roughnecks returned to play Tulsa University for their first game in 2016 in Tulsa. With both teams trying new formations and newly acquired players, the score-line of 0-0 did not show the true action in this game. With two more games against local colleges (Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Southern Methodist University), the team finally returned to ONEOK Field to host NPSL side F.C. Wichita. Tulsa kept the pressure on a dangerous Wichita side for most of the match giving the Roughnecks a 3-2 victory. The Roughnecks ended the preseason with a 4-2-2 record and look to host the expansion side Rio Grande Valley for their season opener on March 26.

Why you should watch Tulsa Roughnecks FC in 2016: The team has a lot to prove in their second season in USL. With a few returning players and a slew of new ones, the Roughnecks are poised to be one of the most exciting teams in the league. Coach Irving has stated that he constructed this team to be one of the most dangerous teams up front. With players like Kaleemullah, Ochoa, Morgan, and Mata, this team appears to be built to score a lot of goals.

3 Players to watch
Kaleemullah Khan:
After not getting to play much for Sacramento Republic, the Pakistani international looks to make a big splash in Tulsa this season. Kaleemullah has already made an impact for the Roughnecks during the preseason, scoring multiple times including one phenomenal free kick goal against OKWU.

Brady Ballew: "Saint" Brady returns to Tulsa for his sophomore year in professional soccer. Last season he impressed many with six goals and four assists. He then spent part of the offseason training with Cambridge United. Brady will be an important part of the Roughnecks this year with his ability to play multiple positions.

Jake Feener: Another young player in his second year with the club, Feener got the starting goalkeeping position about half way through last season, and looks to keep that position going into this year. However, he has a tough road ahead of him. With Tulsa's high powered offense, opposing teams will have multiple opportunities to convert on the counter attack. Feener will need to come up big in these moments for Tulsa to be successful this year.

The 2016 season will be a success if... the forwards can finish the opportunities that are sure to come for them, and the back line defends against the counter. Last year the team started out slow with a 4-8-3 record in the first 15 matches but ended up strong for the last 13 games (7-3-3). The team will need to keep that momentum going from the end of last season, especially against the expansion teams such as Swope Park Rangers KC, San Antonio FC, and Rio Grande Valley FC.