On April 26, the Oklahoma City Energy FC will make its home-turf debut at Clement E. Pribil Stadium at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.
Excitement has been building since the team was officially announced last year, and a buzz has exploded around the arrival of the United Soccer League Professional (USL Pro) team in Oklahoma City. The coaching staff spent several months assembling a team of world-class athletes through tryouts and recruiting.
The roster is a mix of international and domestic players from four countries and 14 U.S. states, including early fan favorite Cyprian Hedrick from French Republic of Cameroon.
Other international players include Adda Djeziri and Philip Lund, both from Denmark; Mark Howard and Paul Wyatt from England; and Gareth Evans from Wales.
Representing Oklahoma are Edmond’s own Steve Perry (insert a Journey joke here; he has heard them all) and Norman’s Ray Clark.
Perry has 10 years of experience on the professional circuit and now circles back to end up in his hometown, playing at his alma mater.
He played domestically for the New England Revolution and internationally for the Finnish Ekenäs IF before Jason Hawkins, general manager of the Energy, encouraged him to attend a combine, a type of tryout with seasoned players, for the Energy.
At a recent Energy practice at North Oklahoma City Soccer Club, he talked about returning to the soccer fields where he learned to play.
“I trained here [at Northwest OKC Soccer Club] on these fields from age 12 up, so this is really full circle for me,” he said.
Perry also attended high school at Bishop McGuinnes and played at Clement E. Pribil Stadium.
“They’ve made quite a few changes since I was there, and I’m excited to play in the updated stadium,” he said.
This is goalkeeper Clark’s first opportunity to play for a professional team.
A Norman High School graduate, Clark played soccer with assistant coach Chris Spendlove, who
encouraged him to attend open tryouts. One of the youngest members of the Energy, Clark earned his spot with raw talent.
“Getting to play for the Energy is unbelievable,” Clark said. “And to get to do it in my own hometown is a dream come true.”
The Energy also has two players from Major League Soccer (MLS) team Sporting KC on loan for the season. The Energy is an affiliate of the Kansas City team, and Jimmy Nielsen was its team captain before becoming head coach of OKC’s new team. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin and midfielder Christian Duke will play with the team for its inaugural season.
Now that we’ve met a few of the players, who are those guys over there in the stands, making such a racket?
Say hello to The Grid, Energy FC’s official supporters’ club.
In Europe, a lot of the clubs are called Ultras, taking a cue from the Latin word that means “beyond.”
It takes its name for fandom above and beyond the norm.
Renowned for its fanatical and vocal support of its team, this group of fans is present at every match, singing and cheering and taunting the other team, usually in its own section of the stadium.
Sean Tolbert and Kellen McGugan, The Grid’s president and vice president, formed the group shortly after the team was announced. Both men are selfprofessed soccer superfans.
“I live, eat and breathe soccer,” Tolbert said.
“It’s my sport, and I want this [team] to be successful.”
The Grid now boasts more than 50 dues-paying members and 700 “likes” on its Facebook page. It also sells section season tickets for home games.
Club memberships are $25, and it meets around the city for pub parties and other events, usually at 51st Street Speakeasy, 1114 NW 51st St.
“Due to the proximity to the stadium, it works perfectly,” Tolbert said. “If you want to find The Grid, you’ll find them at the Speakeasy.”
Learn more about The Grid at facebook.com/EnergyFCSupporters.