FC Tulsa prepares to take next step in 2022 USL Championship season

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Posted at 1:42 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 12:06:45-05

TULSA, Okla. — FC Tulsa kicks its 2022 season off on March 12 in its third year since introducing the club's new name and crest.

The club will open its season on the road at Charleston Battery before opening up at home March 19 against familiar foe Birmingham Legion FC.

MORE >>> FC Tulsa announces full 2022 USL Championship schedule

Club looking to break through playoff slump

FC Tulsa has been successful in making the USL Championship playoffs each of the last two seasons, but hasn't been able to take a step beyond the conference quarterfinals.

The club lost 6-2 to the league's 2021 regular season champion Tampa Bay Rowdies in the first round of the playoffs last season, and lost in a penalty shootout to El Paso Locomotive FC in the first round of the 2020 postseason.

Black Gold Derby on hold

The in-state rivalry between FC Tulsa and OKC Energy FC is on hold this season, leaving the prized wrench trophy in Tulsa in 2022.

OKC isn't participating in the league this season as they wait on an upgrade to the infrastructure at their home Taft Stadium.

The two clubs usually play three times each season.

OKC plans to return to play in 2023.

Returning players

Club-voted MVP Rodrigo da Costa is returning to Tulsa this season after starting all 33 of the club's matches in 2021. Da Costa led FC Tulsa in several categories including 11 goals, six assists and 43 chances created last year.

“Rodrigo has been a major focal point of the attack since 2019,” said head coach Michael Nsien after the club announced they'd be signing da Costa for 2022. “My expectation of Rodrigo will only go up heading into season four of working together. The work that Rodrigo puts in every day gives me the belief that his qualities will only continue to increase year in and year out.”

Fellow forward Joaquin Rivas will be back alongside da Costa in 2022. The two are tied for the franchise lead in goals with 24 scored.

Rivas has represented the club on a national level with the El Salvador national team, including several World Cup Qualifying matches.

“Joaquin is coming off a great year for both club and country,” said Nsien. “He has had some special years for our club and I’m sure he looks forward to building upon his legacy in Tulsa. I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings for him and FC Tulsa. I’m sure it will be full of great moments.”

In December the club announced the re-signing of the USL Championship's most prolific goalscorers Dario Suarez.

The multi-year deal will keep the Cuban forward in 2022 and beyond as he'll look to build on his 18 goals scored over the last two seasons. Fans chose Suarez as the Fan-Voted club MVP in 2021.

Other returning players include team captain Bradley Bourgeois and fellow defenders Jorge Corrales, Johnny Fenwick, goalkeepers Sean Lewis and Austin Wormell, midfielders Eric Bird, Kembo Kibato, Lebo Moloto and Ciaran Winters.

New players

Several new faces will fill out the roster for FC Tulsa in 2022, including seasoned USL veteran Brian Brown.

The club traded for the Jamaican international from New Mexico United in exchange for forward Jerome Kiesewetter in January.

In his 109 appearances in USL regular season play since the start of the 2016 season, Brown has scored 38 goals and added 22 assists, which rank 33rd and tied for 31st respectively in the league's history.

“Brian is a well-rounded striker who can find the small spaces in the box and finish with a quick shot,” said Nsien following the trade. “Brian can also come low and join the midfield to allow our other attacking players to use the space he creates. You can see from his time at Reno [1868 FC] that he can find goals. Goalscoring is the statistic that people always like to look at when you talk about strikers. We want Brian to have a complete season, full of goals, where he is a consistent attacking threat for our club.”

The forward slots on the roster round out with newcomers J.J. Williams and Machuca.

Williams will serve as a somewhat familiar face for FC Tulsa as he's made 46 appearances and started all four of Birmingham Legion FC’s playoff matches over a three-year stretch. He totaled 13 goals and eight assists for Legion FC, capped by a 2021 season in which he scored five of those goals and recorded a career-high six assists.

Honduran forward Machuca comes to Tulsa after an eventful 2021 season — including a CONCACAF Champions League goal for CD Marathon against MLS powerhouse Portland Timbers in a match that finished 2-2.

“I want to thank God for His blessings,” said Machuca after the announcement of his signing. “His word says, ‘Cry out to me and I will answer you,’ and He has heard my prayers. I thank Him for this new opportunity that He's given me. Thanks to my family, friends, and to Lobos de la UPNFM who opened the doors for me. Thanks to Tulsa, my new home team, for opening the door to this new challenge that I am joyfully looking forward to. I have all the desire and enthusiasm to do things well, and I will win over the Tulsa fans and make them proud.”

Other newcomers include Adrián Diz Pe, Ronald Rodríguez, Matheus Silva, Gabriel Torres, Petar Čuić and Abuchi Obinwa.

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