Positive signs for the coming soccer season

Things are looking up for the Tulsa Roughnecks FC, and the season is still several weeks away.

A coaching change was made and an affiliate agreement has been reached with a Major League Soccer team, both developments mean big steps in the right direction for a team that has struggled in its first two seasons in the United Soccer League.

David Irving, who served as the team’s head coach the past two seasons, was removed from his coaching duties in October, and reassigned to a new position with the team; Director of Football Operations/Technical Director. The new position will allow the club to have another person working with soccer operations year-round.

In early December, the Roughnecks hired former MLS player David Vaudreuil as new head coach. The Connecticut resident has a wealth of connections and contacts throughout the game of soccer thanks to a substantial amount of playing and coaching experience. The former defender and midfielder played several seasons in MLS with D.C. United, the Colorado Rapids and the Chicago Fire. He appeared in 131 total MLS matches from 1996 through 2002.

Vaudreuil has served in several coaching roles, including a stint as head coach with the Atlanta Silverbacks in the old USL First Division. Other coaching stops have included time as an assistant coach with the New England Revolution in the MLS and as the General Manager and Head Coach of the AC Milan USA Academy.

Vaudreuil was an assistant last summer with Rayo OKC in the North American Soccer League. He and head coach Gerard Nus joined the team on August 1 during the league’s fall season. The pair helped the club recover from a four-match losing streak as Rayo finished the regular season on a ten-match unbeaten run that included a five-match winning streak to end the campaign.

Vaudreuil’s impact has already been felt with the Roughnecks as he has reached contract terms with former MLS stars Kosuke Kimura and Donovan Ricketts. Their contracts are pending final approval by the United Soccer League and the United States Soccer Federation. Both Kimura and Ricketts will serve as player coaches for Vaudreuil and the Roughnecks.

Another connection of Vaudreuil’s has materialized in the form of an affiliate agreement with the MLS Chicago Fire for the 2017 season. As part of the agreement, the Fire will loan players to Tulsa for the upcoming USL season. In addition, the two sides will look to work together on scrimmages and training opportunities while also collaborating on ideas for best practices, both on the field and off.

Vaudreuil played two seasons with the Fire during his professional career and worked to bring the two teams together.

“We are very pleased to have signed this comprehensive agreement with the Chicago Fire,” said Vaudreuil in a team statement.  “The agreement is based on the personal relationships that we are building between the technical and executive staffs of both clubs as we strive to create the perfect environment for the highest level of professional soccer players.”

After finishing in seventh place in the Western Conference in 2015, and dropping to 15th place at the end of the 2016 season, the Roughnecks needed big changes to turn the team around and keep local fans interested in watching the team play. Average attendance numbers dropped from 4,714 per game the first season, to 3,950 last year. It appears the moves that have been made are in direct response to the disappointing first two seasons of the club’s existence, and that is truly what has been needed for this organization to survive in this very competitive minor league sports market.

The Roughnecks have scheduled FanFest 2017 at ONEOK Field for this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The special event will mark the first day fans can purchase individual tickets for all home matches during the upcoming season, including the season opener that will take place on Saturday, March 25 at ONEOK Field.

Roughnecks players and mascot Oil-E Coyote will be on hand from 10-11:30 a.m. to sign autographs and pose for photos. Fans will have the chance to purchase season tickets during the event as representatives will be available to discuss available seat locations and plans. Those fans who have already purchased season tickets can pick up their packages in the stadium’s Conference Center, while also enjoying breakfast treats.

Free hot dogs and soft drinks will be available for all fans who purchase tickets.  Free tours of ONEOK Field will be conducted at 11 a.m. and noon allowing attendees to see behind-the-scenes areas of the stadium.