Tulsa World

Subs make big plays in FC Tulsa win

Fifth victory in a row bolsters playoff drive

- BARRY LEWIS Tulsa World

Neither Austin Wormell nor Lucas Coutinho had played in the past month before coming off the bench Wednesday night, but both made a big impact late in FC Tulsa’s fifth consecutiv­e win.

Wormell, a former Bishop Kelley and Rogers State goalkeeper, made two big saves that kept the match tied before Coutinho drew the foul that led to Dario Suarez converting a penalty kick in the 89th minute for a 2-1 victory over Indy Eleven at ONEOK Field.

For the first time since 2019, FC Tulsa changed goalkeeper­s during a regular-season match as starter Sean Lewis suffered an upper leg injury on a goal kick in the 27th minute. Wormell then was called on to play for the first time since he made his sixth consecutiv­e start on July 28. His

earlier playing time proved beneficial.

“That helped a lot, stepping in and being comfortabl­e,” Wormell said. “Like I’m glad it wasn’t my first game going in there because

that would’ve been a little more nerve-racking I think. Having that experience was a big help.”

How different was it for him than starting?

“It is a little different because you don’t get the warmup you would if you were starting the game,” Wormell said. “It’s a little bit of a different mindset being able on a drop of a hat to switch on and go out there.”

Wormell inherited a 1-0 lead that was erased a few minutes later when Manuel Arteaga blasted a shot past him. However, Wormell made diving saves in the 80th and 83rd minutes to keep the match at 1-1.

“He was great,” FC Tulsa coach Michael Nsien said. “Vividly two saves, one he pushed around the post and one he didn’t give a rebound from 5 or 6 yards away, his reaction was great. Especially coming in and giving up a goal, but he was never rattled. The players trust him and he was cool. He really felt like he was in control.”

Wormell’s saves seemed to shift the momentum back to Tulsa. Coutinho, a midfielder who had

appeared in only seven games and none since Aug. 4 when he also entered in the 84th minute against Indy Eleven, subbed in for Jason Johnson, who assisted on Marlon Santos’ early goal.

“Right before coming in, Mike (Nsien) just told me, ‘Make a difference,’ Coutinho said. “’I told him, I got it.’ The first opportunit­y I got to take the ball — Shelly (Matt Sheldon) gave me the ball — I saw a space and things happened after that.”

Coutinho was tripped up in the penalty area, and Suarez converted the penalty kick as he drilled the shot right down the middle into the net while goalkeeper Jordan Farr dived to his right. Suarez also had the winning goal in the previous match Friday at Louisville City FC.

“I was extremely happy for Lucas,” Nsien said. “He was exactly the right choice in this moment to make a difference.”

The victory over Indy Eleven (79-6, 26 points) enables FC Tulsa (12-9-1, 37 points) to have a chance to overtake Birmingham Legion FC for second place in the USL’s Central Division when the clubs meet Saturday night at ONEOK Field.

“We have to celebrate briefly then we get ready to go again for another big one Saturday,” Nsien said.

 ?? BRETT ROJO, FOR THE TULSA WORLD ?? FC Tulsa’s Marlon Santos celebrates after scoring during Wednesday night’s match against Indy Eleven at ONEOK Field in Tulsa.
BRETT ROJO, FOR THE TULSA WORLD FC Tulsa’s Marlon Santos celebrates after scoring during Wednesday night’s match against Indy Eleven at ONEOK Field in Tulsa.

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