By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, February 25, 2016
As OKC Energy FC enters its third season in the USL, its first signing Michael Thomas still marvels at how far the club has come in such a short time.
“I had an idea of how big it could get, but seeing after the first two years how welcomed we are in the city, the following that we have is fantastic,” Thomas said recently.
With Thomas playing a major role, Energy FC made a big jump forward in 2015 both on and off the field. The side had success throughout the season as it reached the Western Conference Final in the USL Playoffs, and built a strong following at Taft Stadium, located west of downtown Oklahoma City.
Taft is likely to be rocking again this Saturday night as Energy FC welcomes its new MLS partner FC Dallas for a preseason exhibition that will see the side compete in front of its fans for the first time this year. After a good training stint at IMG Academy in Florida, Thomas said the side’s added depth is going to make competition for playing time high across the field.
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“It’s a great problem to have,” Thomas said. “Our expectations are high this year. We lost a couple of good players, but we kept our core and brought in some very good players as well who can bring a little bit extra, maybe add that extra spark that we didn’t have last year to make that push for the championship in the playoffs.”
Among those new additions are Daniel Jackson, formerly of the Charlotte Independence, and Evans Frimpong, who both have shown positive signs in the club’s preseason scrimmages so far. The newcomers, who also include goalkeeper Cody Laurendi and forward Tim Janssen, have also quickly bought into the work Energy FC has done off the field in the past two years, most notably through the Fields & Futures initiative.
The club’s strong work in the local community has been a point of pride for Thomas, as it also provides a catalyst for the club’s growth.
“We know what they expect of us on and off the field in Oklahoma City. We represent the city well and the team well,” Thomas said. “We set the standards right away, and the guys who’ve come in from outside have brought in right away.”
The new partnership with FC Dallas came about in part thanks to the introduction of Swope Park Rangers this offseason by Energy FC’s former partner Sporting Kansas City. As a native of Kansas City, and former SKC player alongside his current coach Jimmy Nielsen, Thomas is looking forward to the meetings between the clubs this season, as they potentially match up with former Energy FC players like Jon Kempin, Christian Duke and Jacob VanCompernolle.
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“Kansas City’s always going to be my home. I can’t wait to go back there and play,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be great to be in front of my family and friends, and also to show my stuff against Sporting Kansas City with the coaches there. I had a great two years there, no regrets at all, and I’m looking forward to getting back there and putting in a good performance, and hopefully we’ll bring six points back from both games when we travel up there.”
With a strong returning squad that includes 2015 All-League selections Danni Konig and Gareth Evans, as well as standout performers like Casey Townsend, Sebastian Dalgaard and Cyprian Hedrick back to lead the way alongside Thomas, Energy FC is looking for even bigger and better things as it moves closer to the 2016 USL season.“It’s a two-way street,” Thomas said. “If you build success it breeds success, and that’s what we’re about this year.”