Kicking it at home
Union/TU product has bright future with the Roughnecks.
Cristian Mata (in orange) of the Tulsa Roughnecks competes against Orange County Blues FC on July 9, 2015, at ONEOK Field. Tulsa won 4-1.
Rich Crimi/Tulsa Roughnecks
Most professional teams in any sport relish the concept of featuring homegrown talent. In this regard, the Tulsa Roughnecks have scored.
Cristian Mata, who starred in soccer for Union High School, the Tulsa Soccer Club and later for the University of Tulsa, made the big step to the professional ranks when he signed with the Roughnecks in June 2015.
His road to Tulsa was a long one. Growing up in Juarez, Mexico, the 22-year-old forward explains that playing soccer was just a given.
“I really didn’t play other sports as a kid,” Mata says. “Everyone there just played soccer.”
After his family moved to Tulsa when he was 9 years old, he continued concentrating on soccer, eventually becoming a four-year starter for Union and starting for the TSC team in various age brackets.
After considering several offers to play college soccer, Mata opted for a position on the Golden Hurricane.
“It was close to home so my family could still watch me play,” Mata explains. “My older brother Omar was on the team already, and I really liked the academics that TU offered.
“Having my brother on the team was a big asset. He was already a leader on the team, so that really helped me get established.”
Mata majored in communications and minored in Spanish at TU and plans to finish his degree. He credits his club coach, Steve Earle, a former Roughnecks star from the ’70s and ’80s, with helping promote him to the Roughnecks coaching staff and opening the door to the pros.
Soon after joining the team, Mata immediately paid dividends, scoring a goal against the Sacramento Republic FC in his first professional game.
As for the upcoming season, he is focused on team improvement.
“We came close last season, but we didn’t make the playoffs,” he says. “That’s our team’s goal this season. Once we get into the playoffs, it’s a whole new season.”
And there’s the personal side.
“It’s a big step just to play as a professional,” he says, “But to be able to do it in your hometown is extra special. It’s nice to know that your family and friends can be there and watch.”
The Tulsa Roughnecks play three home games this month at ONEOK Field: April 2, 9 and 23. Visit www.tulsaroughnecksFC.com for a full schedule.
Cristian Mata highlights
Union High School
- Four-year letterman
- Scored 70 career goals
- Named the Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year
- Named the 2012 Tulsa World Metro Player of the Year
- Two-time All-Metro team and two-time All-State player
- Ranked the 81st best player in the nation and fourth in the region
Tulsa Soccer Club
- His TSC 94 team won the Disney Cup, the Region III Championship and the U.S. National League Championship
- Member of the U.S. Region III Olympic Development Team
- U.S. National Team pool player
University of Tulsa
- Played two years for TU, lettering both years
- Started 38 out of 40 games
- Named TU’s Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman
- Named to the Preseason All-American teams by College Soccer News, College Sports Madness and Soccer America
- Scored three game-winning goals sophomore year
- Selected to the first team All-Conference USA
- Played in 15 games and started 11
- Scored six goals and one assist while averaging over 65 minutes playing time per game