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2017 USL Season Preview: Tulsa Roughnecks FC

New coach. New roster. Can the men of Green Country bring their fans an historic first playoff berth?

Kosuke Kimura
Lori Scholl

Year founded: 2013

Affiliation: Chicago Fire

2016 record, standing in conference: 5-4-21, 15th in the Western Conference

2016 playoffs: Did not qualify

Key additions: David Vaudreuil (new head coach), Juan Pablo Caffa, Kosuke Kimura

Key departures: Sammy Ochoa and Iarfhlaith Davoren

Projected/ideal starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Byars GK, Corrales LB, Jadama CB, Ugarte CB, Kimura RB, Fernandez CDM, Ayala CDM, Rivas LM, Caffa CAM, Calistri RM, Svantesson F

Well, it’s safe to say that Tulsa was the worst team in the West last year. With this in mind, the management of the Roughnecks knew they needed to change something in 2017. After letting go of almost every player on the roster, the team went out looking for a new coach to start over with. It just so happened that they did not have to go far; just down the road in Oklahoma City the team found David Vaudreuil.

Vaudreuil spent the last year as an assistant coach at Rayo OKC, where he helped the team finish fourth in NASL’s combined regular season standings. This move did not come without its controversies. David Irving, head coach in 2015 and 2016, was promoted to Technical Director and Director of Football Operations for TRFC. With many fans upset over the poor 2016 season, it was a surprise to see Irving still in the Roughnecks organization.

Another big change is the team’s new affiliation with Chicago Fire of MLS. After previously affiliating with Saint Louis FC, the Fire stated that the new affiliation with Tulsa will not only mean player loans, but that the two teams will work together on and off the field. On March 6, the clubs met in a friendly, with the Roughnecks taking a 2-1 victory. Chicago recently announced that three of their players (Joey Calistri, Matej Dekovic, and Collin Fernandez) are being loaned to Tulsa.

Why you should watch the Roughnecks in 2017: Everyone loves an underdog, right? Well this could be one of the best rags-to-riches stories the USL has ever seen. After giving up a league-high 64 goals last year, head coach Vaudreuil has built this new team to be a defensive masterpiece.

3 players to watch

Juan Pablo Caffa: The 32-year-old Argentinian seems to be the key player for the Roughnecks this year. With an impressive resume, including two years with Real Betis of La Liga, Caffa will add experience and clinical skills that should help this Tulsa team.

Jaime Ayala: Coming from Celaya FC, Ayala has had over 100 games in the Mexican leagues. He can feature as a defender or midfielder, making him valuable to a defensive-minded team.

Collin Fernandez: As a player on loan from the Chicago Fire, it is hard to tell how long Fernandez will be with the team, but he looks to be a powerful forward for the Roughnecks. After signing a Homegrown contract in 2014 with the Fire, Fernandez has been loaned out to Louisville and St. Louis before landing with Tulsa.

The 2017 season will be a success if... this team, full of newcomers to Tulsa, can find a way to mesh quickly. A lot of talent is on this team, and many of the players have played on multiple teams all around the world. With that being said, the Roughnecks have a lot to prove after last season, and the fans are eager to have a team make it into the playoffs.

If you are interested in hearing the latest news on the Roughnecks, head on over to www.tulsaroustabouts.com/category/tss/ to listen to the latest episode of Tulsa Soccer Show.