By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: Other | Issue: May 2013
Coach Joey Ryan, Dr. Tommy Kern, Sonny Dalesandro and Jake Dobkins of the Tulsa Athletics organization.
On July 13, 1985, the Tulsa Roughnecks of the North American Soccer League played their final match at the original Driller’s Stadium at 15th and Yale. On May 18, 2013, the Tulsa Athletics will take that same field as outdoor soccer finally makes its return to Tulsa.
When the NASL and the Tulsa Roughnecks ceased to be, several players stayed in the Tulsa area, remaining active in the soccer community which they had helped create. Their bond with the community is still evident today as thousands of athletes have played under their tutelage.
Tulsa is revered across the country as a soccer city, with our youth clubs being some of the most talented and competitive. However, there has been a gap at the top adult level since 1985. This summer, the journey back to the top of the soccer map begins. “When support meets ambition, only success can follow in soccer,” said team co-owner Sonny Dalesandro.
Tulsans have an unrivaled passion for the game of soccer, so much so that several attempts have been made to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to our city. This is the Tulsa Athletics’ goal as well, one step at a time. Rekindling the love that Tulsa has for the game at its highest level is the first priority. Four of the newer, yet most successful clubs in MLS are teams that played in lower divisions, and because of incredible fan support made the jump to the MLS. This is the Tulsa Athletics’ ultimate goal.
This summer will be Tulsa Athletics’ inaugural season in the National Premiere Soccer League, the largest league in the United States, with 61 teams competing across the country. It is the perfect league for a new ambitious franchise to start its journey towards returning Tulsa to the forefront of the soccer map in America.
Co-owner Sonny Dalesandro was the youngest Oklahoman to play professionally when he debuted for Tulsa’s USISL franchise in 1995. Dalesandro won “Rookie of the Year” that season and went on to have a six-year career, playing for the Milwaukee Wave and the Wichita Wings. “Some of my very earliest memories are of Skelly Stadium and the Tulsa Roughnecks, and today’s youth deserve that same impression that I was afforded.”
Dr. Tommy Kern, co-owner of the Tulsa Athletics and a sports medicine physician for Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center, grew up playing soccer in Tulsa and went on to play at Brown University prior to medical school at the University of Oklahoma. “We are excited to bring high-level soccer back to Tulsa to match the quality of the youth programs.”
Joey Ryan, head coach of the Tulsa Athletics, has been coaching since the mid-80s after having played professionally in the American Soccer League, the NASL, and indoor in the MISL. Ryan was also an NCAA division 1 champion with the legendary, undefeated Hartwick College team of 1977. Ryan has coached at the youth, high school, semi-pro and professional level in New York, New Jersey and Oklahoma. “My staff and I are extremely excited to be a part of the resurrection of both outdoor soccer in Tulsa and the old Drillers Stadium at Expo Square and look forward to many entertaining, successful games being played there. The owners have done a fantastic job of putting this project together, and we hope to work as hard and represent Tulsa on the field as well as they have in putting this franchise together.”
Bring the whole family out for the Tulsa Athletics’ first game on Saturday, May 18. Tickets are available at www.tulsa-athletics.com; reserved seating is $10 and general admission is $5. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter at Ttownsoccer.
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.