When Cristian Mata is on a soccer pitch in Tulsa, he scores. The new Roughnecks player is making his mark, playing a key offensive role on the team.
"Being the only local player on the team, it's definitely a big boost for me, because just knowing I have friends and family coming in, it's still impressive to me that people enjoy how I play," said Mata.
Mata knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. He did it 70 times while playing forward at Union High School. He had the same knack at the University of Tulsa, scoring 27 goals in his time there.
The future looked bright, but he found out that finding a roster spot in the pro ranks is tough and supporting his mother tougher.
After unsuccessfully finding a team to play for in both Mexico and Seattle, he came back and worked a utility job, but funds were running low trying to support a single parent home. So, when the Roughnecks called saying he could work out for them, he relished the opportunity to play for a local team.
"I'm a big believer in homegrown. If there [are] players good enough to play at our level, why not and he's a great example of that," explained Roughnecks head coach David Irving.
Mata says getting on the Roughnecks wasn’t easy. "I knew a couple of the coaches knew me, but it wasn't easy just to come here with my name, just to play somewhere,” he said. “[It] took a few, three weeks, to get attached to everyone and get my spot on the team, so I'm very happy right now.”
Now, he's making the most of his tenure after getting signed last month. He started in his first game, and just like old times he scored a goal.
"Coach gave me a little trust and gave me a couple minutes and [I] got a goal, and I'm hoping to build up from that, get a few more," he explained.
Irving says no matter where he plays he scores. "He's a goal scorer; wherever he's been he's scored goals."
Goals are exactly what the Roughnecks need. They're 11th in the Western Conference, so maybe this former Redskin and Hurricane and now Roughneck, can help.