VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Tulsa Roughnecks, a 'down-to-earth, honest and hard working' group of soccer players, surprised almost everyone in winning the 1983 NASL championship. Now, they just hope they'll be around next year to defend it.
'This couldn't have come at a more opportune time for us,' Tulsa general manager Alex Skotarek said following Saturday's 2-0 win over Toronto in Soccer Bowl '83. 'It's very difficult to say what it means at this point, but I think it will mean a future for our team.'
The Roughnecks began the 1983 North American Soccer League season ignominiously, dropping eight of their first 10 games. They rebounded strongly, however, winning 15 of their remaining 20 games in the regular season.
'I think it would be a great tragedy if this franchise ever folded because there's a great group of supporters in Tulsa,' coach Terry Hennessey said.
The 1983 champions, formerly known as the San Antonio Spurs and Team Hawaii prior to starting in Tulsa in 1978, averaged about 11,000 fans at Skelly Stadium this season and kept losses to about $400,000.
Carl Moore, the team's majority owner, said the club hoped to approve a stock issue by Oct. 15 in which 100-share blocks of stock would be offered to the public at $2 a share.
Tulsa striker Ron Futcher, the center of controversy and scorer of the club's second goal, said the victory had 'given soccer a good boost in Tulsa. I think just getting here is an unbelievable thing for Tulsa. Winning it was icing on the cake.'
'This may give Tulsa a bit of credibility around the league,' said Futcher. 'I would characterize our team as down-to-earth, honest and hard working. Everybody sticks by each other. There are no prima donnas on this team.'
Futcher's suspension from the NASL's showcase game was lifted Friday by league president Howard Samuels, who overruled his executive director of operations.
Tulsa's leading scorer with 15 goals during the season and five in the playoffs, Futcher was handed his third yellow penalty card for rough play in Tulsa's semifinal win last week over the Montreal Manic and incurred a mandatory suspension.
But Samuels late Friday overruled an underling's decision to keep Futcher out, allowing him to play 'for the sake of the sport.'
Both Tulsa goals came after a scoreless first half.
Njego Pesa scored on an indirect free kick from 19 yards out at 55:36 to give the Roughnecks a 1-0 lead.
'The shot came from 19 yards out and the goalie has to expect a shot,' said Pesa, who was named Player of the Game. 'This was the most important game of my career. It was a player's dream.'
The Roughnecks stretched their advantage to 2-0 at 61:37 on Futcher's sixth goal in six playoff games.
Toronto coach Bob Houghton felt Futcher's goal was the back-breaker.
'There was a double reaction after the second goal,' he said. 'It lifted Tulsa and left us dejected. They played super soccer and, frankly, deserved to win.'
The Soccer Bowl, for which all 60,051 tickets had been sold, was the last to be held by the NASL as the leaguehas decided to switch to a best-of-three format for next year's final. The actual attendance at the game was 53,326, the second highest for a Soccer Bowl game.