The Chicago Fire’s USL affiliate Tulsa Roughnecks FC continued their strong start to the season Saturday, defeating Houston Dynamo affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC 1-0 on a cold, rainy night in Tulsa.
Fire loanee Joey Calistri followed up an impressive performance in the Rougnecks’ opening game of the season with an equally strong display Saturday. The former Northwestern Wildcat scored his first goal of the season in the 31st minute, a goal that proved to be the winner.
Now there are a couple of things that make this goal from Calistri special. First, it was his first goal with Tulsa—that’s always something to celebrate. Also, he has now been a part of two goals in as many matches, something that will certainly get the attention of Fire manager Veljko Puanovic if he can keep it up.
Second, Calistri showed quite a bit of composure en route to his second professional goal. Roughnecks’ striker Ian Svantesson smashed a shot towards the far post that was clearly going wide. Calistri, being a striker’s striker, quickly stepped across, collected this bullet of a ball and neatly tucked it past RGVFC keeper Borja Angoitia.
Calistri’s performance Saturday also earned him high praise from Roughnecks’ head coach David Vaudreuil.
“Calistri has been playing very well,” Vaudreuil said in an interview with the club’s media team after the game Saturday. “He’s been getting behind, setting up guys and getting lots of looks at the goal. He is someone we think, with more repetition, is going to keep getting chances, keep scoring goals and keep getting assists. We are extremely happy with him.”
Fire fans should be excited by Calistri’s strong start to the USL season. As a home grown player with Chicago, he very well may be the future of the club’s attacking force.
Fellow Fire loanee Collin Fernandez also got his second consecutive start for the Roughnecks. While Fernandez’s performance Saturday may not have been quite as flashy as the shift he put in during the season opener, but there were still signs of quality.
Fernandez’ work was strong was up and down the pitch, providing a good amount of both attacking and defensive support. His distribution through the center of the park was solid, and no major errors come to mind.
There is one instance in particular from Fernandez that should be encouraging to Fire fans. Early on in the match he made a sprinting recovery run to pick the pocket of RGVFC midfielder Eric Bird.
By no means is this a flashy highlight, but it shows signs that Fernandez has the work-rate to eventually fit into Paunovic’s high-press system.
The Roughnecks will return to action on April 8 when they welcome Sacramento Republic FC to ONEOK Field.