The Tulsa Athletics are on their way to the postseason thanks to the team’s impressive run of form in 2013. Tulsa was recently crowned champions of the South Central Conference, quite a feat for an expansion team.
Co-owner Sonny Dalesandro took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions.
1. What has contributed to your team’s early success?
Several variables. We have an amazing coaching staff. Our players are a blue-collar bunch of guys. Our supporters group and our fans really give the boys a boost during matches. The players in Chattanooga and Detroit can relate. Big loud crowds certainly can help spur the boys on.
2. What should people expect when attending a Tulsa Athletics home match?
A party. We play in an old baseball stadium, so there is a gap in the outfield. We fill it with a Jupiter jump, local food trucks, a beer garden, and some temporary bleachers. We have a couple of soccer tennis courts and a dunk tank for the kids as well. The Ultras sing for 90 plus minutes every match, and on the field our squad is playing some pretty inspired soccer. All in all, it’s a great night out.
3. How important is it to have true supporters that are with the team in good times and bad?
They’re unbelievable. We’ve been fortunate to have had less than our share of lows. I’ll step into their section and sing a couple of songs throughout the night. The best example I can provide is when we get scored on they’re straight into "we love you Tulsa, we do...," my stomach will be physically sick, but they’re right back into it, doing whatever they can to get the squad going again. They’re difference makers for sure. They’re our 12th player without a doubt.
4. What makes your home venue unique?
For one, it’s an old baseball stadium. Many Tulsans have spent a great deal of time at our stadium in the past. So there’s a very nostalgic vibe about our grounds that the community really likes. Past that, big crowds, great food, and lots of fun stuff for the kids to do.
5. Tulsa has a great soccer history. Where do you see the Athletics fitting in?
Great question. I’m a soccer nerd and I know all about the history of the sport in Tulsa. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that many of the kids that play today have no earthly idea about Victor Moreland and Billy Caskey and all of the old Tulsa Roughnecks trivia. That helped shape our "past, present, and future" design. Our programs spotlight a legend from the old NASL Tulsa Roughnecks and they have been doing the opening coin tosses. We want to re-educate people on how important these players are to Tulsa. Without them and the clubs they started and founded, Tulsa would just be another football town in America. We want the Athletics to have their own identity, while drawing on the past successes and influence of the Tulsa Roughnecks. We want kids to say "I wanna be the next Levi Coleman or Blaine Gonsalves." We really want the Athletics to embody the past, present, and future of soccer in Tulsa.
6. How competitive has the South Central been?
Our division is unjustly viewed as "soft" in a lot of the blogs/columns/polls. I challenge anyone to go to Maya Park and play the Regals, a team that a couple of years ago gave the Charleston Battery all they could handle in the U.S. Open Cup. Or play against Brendan Keyes’s organized men in south Houston. North Texas is probably the soccer capital of the U.S. in the last 5 years so getting results in and against Liverpool Warriors of Dallas is extremely difficult. That being said, all four teams are new to the league this year. We just managed to find a vein of form and consistency earlier than our counterparts. Next year this division will be bigger and even more of a toss up.
Photo Credit: Tulsa Athletics