By GRANT CZUBINSKI – USLSoccer.com Contributor
Saturday, January 23, 2016
The Swope Park Rangers may not have a full roster yet, but that hasn’t stopped defender Jacob VanCompernolle from setting goals for the club this upcoming season, including contending for a USL championship.
The Dallas, Texas native’s decision to sign with the Kansas City outfit has come as somewhat of a surprise after he proved to be vital part OKC Energy FC’s defense, helping the club reach the Western Conference Final of the 2015 USL Playoffs during his rookie year. Despite his success in Oklahoma, VanCompernolle felt that signing with Swope Park this offseason was the best for everyone involved.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for my time in Oklahoma City, but my heart, when the opportunity came that I could potentially make the move to the Sporting organization and play for Swope Park, my heart was fully in it,” he said this week. “It wouldn’t have been fair for me to not follow my heart. It wouldn’t have been fair to me and it wouldn’t have been fair to Oklahoma City. I am forever grateful for everything Oklahoma City did for me, but I am excited for this opportunity with Swope.”
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VanCompernolle proved he is a quality USL center back during his rookie campaign, making 23 starts for Energy FC, a number he hopes to top with SPR this year. At the same time, his success is something he attributes to not only his hard work, but his time spent playing at UNC-Wilmington and with the PDL’s Ottawa Fury, where he learned the lessons necessary to make it at the professional level.
“[Ottawa] was a top-class organization,” VanCompernolle said. “The training sessions were intense, the environment was very passionate and extreme, and it definitely influenced me, not only on the field, but off the field as far as preparing me for the professional level.”
With the move to Swope Park and his rookie season behind him, VanCompernolle hopes to apply lessons he’s learned throughout his career to help the Kansas City club compete in its inaugural season.
“I’m hoping that with this new organization that I can help be a leader on team,” he said. “Try and not only lead by example, but when needed, be there to uplift the team, whether it’s through a tackle or motivating my teammates.”
The UNCW alum is ready to take the reins and lead, despite the nebulous nature of the Rangers’ roster at the moment. The club is crafting its roster not only with players from the Sporting Kansas City academy, but also with players, like VanCompernolle, with USL experience like fellow Energy FC alum Christian Duke, and 2015 USL All-League selection Dane Kelly, formerly of the Charleston Battery.
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With 11 players currently announced by the club, the status of the roster currently is not a problem according to VanCompernolle, who envisions the club enjoying success regardless.
“I expect this team to compete,” he said. “I expect this team to not only survive, but to excel. I think that it’s widely known that Sporting Kansas City is one of the best soccer organizations in the country, if not the best, and if anybody is going to be able to take an expansion team in its inaugural season and hope to contend for a championship then it’s going to be this team. I think that the most important thing, once we have our squad, is that we quickly buckle down, build team chemistry, start working together, and start to develop this team from the bottom up.”
VanCompernolle is ready to actively aid in the development of a winning culture at Swope Park, but he doesn’t expect the players and staff to do it alone. He anticipates the developing fan base will create a fervent atmosphere that will contribute to Swope Park’s triumphs.
“I’m hoping that the supporters group will be out in full force every game,” he said. “Do I expect there to be a very loyal supporters group? Yes, one hundred percent. I think there are going to be fans that come out at the start of the season that are there the whole season, who are loud. I expect the supporters group to build. I expect as we win games to get some more support out there.”
With the season’s commencement on the horizon, it seems apparent that the brass knew who they were signing when they snagged VanCompernolle, a player who is going to leave it all on the field and who is ready to help the club push for a championship in its first season in the USL. He is certainly not shying away from expectations, but is also ready to work for it.“My main focus is winning this season, developing as an individual, developing as a team, and contending for a championship,” he said. “I want to make this a great first season for the Rangers.”