Mark Howard Reportedly Signed By OKC Energy FC

Per, the Oklahoma City Energy FC has signed English defenceman Mark Howard to a one-year deal. If he is indeed signed, Howard makes the jump to North America after spending the majority of his career in Denmark, playing in the Superligaen. Most recently, Howard spent parts of four seasons with Aarhus GF, netting two goals in 51 appearances for the club. Prior to his play with AGF, Howard played for Bröndby in Superligaen, earning one goal in 67 appearances.

Howard also spent time with Manchester United during his youth club years. At 28 years old, Howard would become the oldest player for the Energy.

The Energy play tonight in Edmond at 6pm against Northeastern State out of Tahlequah.

OKC Energy FC Visits Tulsa; Plays Oral Roberts University

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

Last night, OKC Energy FC headed up to Tulsa to take on the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University. Not a lot of coverage was to be had of the game, but here’s a few notes.

-Samir Badr was in goal throughout the entire match.

-Michael Thomas opened the scoring on a PK for the Energy in the 48th minute.

-The second goal for the Energy came in the 51st minute from either Tarek Morad or Paul Wyatt (conflicting reports).

-Kyle Greig added the third and fourth goals for the Energy.

-Badr’s clean sheet bid was lost in the 81st minute as Johnny Chavez scored the lone goal for Oral Roberts.

ORU plays in the same conference as University of Nebraska – Omaha, whom the Energy played against over the weekend. This gives them a little bit of an idea exactly where they are at now, and signs are pointing upward as the team begins to get comfortable with one another and the chemistry starts to build. The signings of Edmond-native Steven Perry and Adda Djeziri was made official this past week as well.

The Energy continue their preseason schedule on Friday night in Edmond as they take on the NCAA Division-II Northeastern State RiverHawks from Tahlequah.

Oklahoma City Energy FC Comes Out On Top In First Preseason Game

Photo by Steven Christy

32 degrees in March is usually rare in Oklahoma City, but that was the temperature this evening when OKC Energy FC kicked off their inaugural season, playing University of Nebraska – Omaha in a preseason matchup. The Mavericks from Omaha were also playing in their first game of the season, beginning a three-game stretch against the Energy, MLS’s Colorado Rapids, and NASL’s Minnesota United FC.

The Energy had a strong start to the match, earning a corner kick in the 10th minute and nearly scoring their first goal, but the defense of UNO was able to keep the ball from crossing the line and keep it a scoreless match. Philip Lund came up with two big chances, minutes apart – hitting the post in the 15th minute and  UNO’s goalkeeper Josh Christensen making the save in the 17th. Michael Thomas had a chance in the first half and Christensen knocked that one away as well. UNO came up with a few chances but the defense of the Energy and the play of Samir Badr in goal kept it a nil-nil match after the first half.

UNO turned up the pace in the second half, forcing a few saves by Badr in the first fifteen minutes of the half. In the final third of the match, the Energy picked things up and picked up the lone goal of the match from substitute Paul Wyatt in the 85th minute by heading in a rebound from a David Leichty shot. UNO had a chance to earn the equalizer late from a free kick, but the Energy defense turned it away and allowed the team to earn their first win in their first match as a club.

OKC Energy FC continues their preseason schedule on Wednesday as they take on Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.

OKC Energy FC (4-2-3-1)
Miller – Evans – Hedrick – Doue
Thomas – Morad
Leichty – Djeziri – Lund

IN → Max Gunderson (13′)
OUT ← Peabo Doue

IN → Jennings Clark (64′)
OUT ← Samir Badr

IN → Paul Wyatt (64′)
OUT ← Tarek Morad

IN → Nate Shiffman (64′)
OUT ← Philip Lund

IN →Steven Perry (64′)
OUT ← Adda Djeziri

UNO Mavericks (4-4-2)
McCain – Miller – Da Silva – Mendez
Moulton – Gomez – Alihodzic – Perez
Corboy – Garcia

Notes: – If Adda Djeziri has been signed by the Energy, it has not been officially announced anywhere. Djeziri has trained previously with Sporting KC during past preseasons, and this may just be him getting another look.
– Steven Perry is another name that has not been mentioned anywhere previously by the club. Perry is an Edmond, Oklahoma native, coming off of two seasons with the Wilmington Hammerheads, picking up six goals in 36 matches.

Prodigal’s New Soccer Team, And What That May Mean For The OKC Barons

The story we’ve been covering over the past few weeks regarding the possible name and logo of Prodigal’s new USL PRO soccer team has finally reached the point of being official as Prodigal announced the team as being named OKC Energy FC. After looking at the new team’s website, seeing the work that has been put into the shiny new franchise, my fears grew bigger that this may spell the end of Oklahoma City hockey as we know it.

When the soccer team was first announced back in July, my fears were small that Prodigal would treat the Oklahoma City Barons as a “red-headed step-child” as the soccer team was going to be an individual venture by the management group. While it’s understandable that someone would want to put the care into something like that, one would also hope that they would give the same time and care to something they already have possession of and another big entity behind it such as the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately it seems that after three years of mediocre attendance and little to no media coverage outside of the NHL Lockout period last season, Prodigal is starting to lean towards sowing their seeds elsewhere.

One look at the Energy’s website is the first big clue to them putting more eggs into the soccer team’s basket. Not once have I seen the quality of the images and renderings that are currently on the Energy site, on the Barons site. It’s obvious they have the technology and someone with the knowledge on how to do it, but they haven’t given any of it to the hockey side of things. On their Twitter feed, they start with a giveaway of the new team scarves and start offering free seats to a game to another blogger located in Oklahoma City, trying to change their mind about the team (meanwhile they block me from their Twitter account after five minutes of following, but I digress). For the Barons, they’ve done nothing but maintain that giving away seats is a bad thing and do all they can to refuse to.

Probably the biggest tell in all of this, Prodigal is adamant about building a soccer specific stadium in downtown Oklahoma City. With the uncertainty of the Cox Convention Center, the Barons most likely need a new place to play. If Prodigal is more wanting to spend the money on a new soccer stadium, you can pretty well guess that the Barons are going to be squeezed out of Oklahoma City if something doesn’t change soon.

In a perfect world, there’s another management/ownership group in Oklahoma City that is ready and waiting to take over the Barons should Prodigal decide to move out of the picture. But as everyone knows, things rarely ever end up that perfect.

Don’t get me wrong in that I’m trying to run them down for doing these things. Maybe they’re changing their ways from how they run the Barons and are trying new things, and that’s great. But as an OKC Barons fan, this worries me that they decided to do this three years too late and still haven’t done those things with the Barons team itself. Other than the Linus Omark goal during the Kid’s Day game, you haven’t heard much at all about the Barons this season anywhere in Oklahoma City. It’s been a frustrating season for a lot of people that are fans of the Oilers organization, but I would certainly hate to lose hockey in OKC, 50 transactions a month or not. I fear that’s the path that we’re currently on.

New Possibilities For USL OKC Soccer Team Names, Crests Included

A month ago to the day, we brought you a couple of the possible names for the upcoming Prodigal USL PRO soccer team, set to kick off during the 2014 season. Today, we bring you a couple more names with some accompanying crests. Found today are possible names of OKC Aeros FC, OKC Wind FC, and OKC 46ers FC. With the exception of OKC Aeros FC, we have the crests of the latter two, along with the crests for the previously found OKC Energy FC and OKC Spirit FC, giving us a look at the possible identities and colors that Prodigal has brought to the table. So without further adieu, your possible Oklahoma City USL PRO team name.

OKC Energy FC

The OKC Energy FC crest features a steel blue and lime green color scheme that seems to go together relatively well, but I’m not sure how that would translate on a kit design. “Labor Omnia Vincit” adorn the top of the crest, Latin for “Work Conquers All.” The phrase comes from a an ancient Roman poem that supported Augustus Caesar’s “Back to the Land” policy, encouraging more Romans to become farmers. Given the history of ranching and oil work in the state, it certainly fits the local vibe. The biggest issue I have with the crest is the star in the center seeming to be off just a bit. That it’s not one solid line and continues to feed into the circle surrounding it is a bit off-putting in my opinion.

OKC Spirit FC

Probably my front-runner as far as the crest goes, but I’m still not a fan of the name. A good looking shield with the state outline at the top, and a hawk/eagle/bird design that emulates the Native American style of bird drawings. You can also make a case that it has an effect of a B2 Bomber image, bringing in the Air Force element of the local Tinker Air Force Base. Once again, a steel blue color used with silver.

 OKC Wind FC

Retro, plain, meh. When you have the Oklahoma City Thunder already, I’m not a fan of another weather-themed name in the city. Another blue color being the primary color, you can see a pattern of what Prodigal is going for.

OKC Flyers FC

Yet another blue, but this time it’s not the primary color, as maroon makes a bigger splash with this crest. The state bird, a scissor-tailed flycatcher takes center stage, with the head making out the dome at the top of the state capitol building. With the new Skydance bridge in Oklahoma City over I-40, a lot of people have been talking about the flycatcher taking on a bit more meaning in the city. I’m not too sure of using the maroon as a main color, but I’d reserve my judgement until seeing a kit design. This one sits as my second choice right now.

OKC 46ers FC

Another red and blue combo, this one stumped us for a bit. Usually when a team uses a name such as “46ers,” you think of a significant year that something happened in the locale. For the San Francisco 49ers, it was the gold rush. For the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For Oklahoma City, we couldn’t find any such thing for any such date without really reaching. Then a lightbulb went off and we think we have it figured out. Oklahoma was the 46th state admitted to the United States. Further evidence to that being the reasoning behind it, the Oklahoma state flag from 1911-1925 featured a single star with the number 46 in the center. Overall, I think the crest looks good, colors work, but once again, not a big fan of the name.

What say you?

Tend The Farm Soccer: An Interview with OKC NASL’s Chris Taylor

Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of talk about the new soccer teams coming to Oklahoma City over the next couple of years. For me personally, I grew up playing soccer in small town rec-leagues, but I was never in an area that the sport was extremely huge, or really all that talked about. That’s changing locally now, and I am excited about that.

From the North American Soccer League, they’re bringing a franchise that is being headed up by businessman Tim McLaughlin. The NASL was founded in 2009 and was named the second tier United States soccer league soon after. Beginning with eight teams from the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, the league is looking to reach a mass expansion with three teams joining in 2014, and another two in 2015 of which one is Oklahoma City.

One of the first moves that McLaughlin and the NASL team made, was to bring in former MLS player and Oklahoma City native, Chris Taylor. “With the timing of my release in Portland, I thought that this was a great opportunity for me and this was a good match. I had high hopes for Oklahoma City’s plans for professional soccer and I wanted to create something special in OKC with something that the city has never seen, the highest level of professional soccer in Oklahoma City,” Chris explained. “It’s a sport that I’ve spent 20 years playing, and where better to get my start in sports business than my home state?”

A graduate from University of Tulsa with a major in Business Management, specializing in Entrepreneurship, he was an NSCAA Scholar All-American with the Golden Hurricanes’ in 2009, and part of their three-year run of winning Conference-USA conference championships in 2007, 08, and 09. Following his time in college, he then entered into the MLS Superdraft, where he was drafted in the second round with the 22nd pick by the Portland Timbers in their first season of play. After spending two seasons and part of a third with the Timbers organization, Taylor was released this past year, leading him back to Oklahoma City.

But with still another year before the NASL team begins playing, Taylor said that the organization hopes to establish a prominent brand, even before the team takes the pitch for the first time at Taft Stadium. “We want to create buzz among the non-soccer crowd, as well as reaching out to the ‘already soccer fans’ in OKC too.”

In a city that is already dominated by the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as OU, OSU, TU, and other colleges, Taylor sees the allure of the soccer atmosphere as something that will set their team apart from the aforementioned groups. “The community as a whole has always been a college environment, and now there’s Thunder-nation. Once we have our first game, once things become tangible, we think people will realize that soccer is a different environment than OU, OSU, and the Thunder. The amount of passion in soccer in international play, or in Portland as I experienced, is truly incredible. Fans, when they come to games, will be able to experience something they never have before and be a part of it. Supporters groups are relevant and extremely passionate about the team and especially the game. We are going to bring an experience that will make people say ‘Wow, this is a part of my city,’ and maybe even join the supporters group.”

That’s just off the pitch. In the US Soccer pyramid, the NASL sits as the second-tier league below the MLS. “Fans can for sure expect players of international quality. People will see that this is a legit league, and will be something that kids coming up will definitely latch on to,” Taylor continued. “Someone like me would have needed to leave Oklahoma City to make a living playing professional soccer, but now there’s that team in Oklahoma City that can provide that living.”

Despite being a league of currently eight teams playing – and will be 13 by the time Oklahoma City begins playing – Taylor says there are already some tailor-made rivalries awaiting the team. “San Antonio has been itching to have someone closer that their fans can make trips to. I’ve heard of an I-35 rivalry with Minnesota even. You always look at the nearest teams. To be able to create rivalries is a great thing for the game as it helps grow with the fans and the crowds. It provides fans an influential outcome of the game.”

As the team begins to build its strategy over the next year, they have an example already of what route to follow in the Indy Eleven. Indy begins play next year and Taylor says they have already paved a trail for the Oklahoma City team to follow. “They’ve been able to secure 6,500 season tickets and that is absolutely incredible for a city that has two professional sports teams, and one of those being arguably the most popular sport in football. They’ve been able to reach out and grab the fans. With the passion they have, they’ve done a fantastic job to this point. That’s a group we’d like to emulate. It’s a different community, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tailor it to Oklahoma City.”

Taylor also mentioned the closer market in San Antonio: “San Antonio has their own stadium that is absolutely fabulous. It’s a great soccer environment and the attendance will grow as the NASL continues to grow. They’ve been able to find the niche and grow it into something that you almost can’t call a niche anymore.” San Antonio’s attendance dipped below six-thousand people only once during the fall season, averaging 6763 over the course of seven home games.

At only the age of 24, Taylor doesn’t see this as a permanent move to the front office, however, and still sees himself playing in the future. “I’m 24, young, and in my prime. People ask me why I’m doing this now. In the professional landscape, life is dependent on having a good match, where every day is you’re competing for your job. It can be that you have a great game one week, and then three weeks later be on the bench.

“To be able to have some normalcy, lay some roots, it’s a nice thing to be a part of. However, there’s nothing better than walking out with your teammates and walking out of that tunnel to the crowd’s roar. I’m still training, but I look at this as a way to get business experience in a field that I know and love. I would have been a little disappointed to not be a part of this in Oklahoma City.” And Taylor means that literally. “I want to be a part of history in Oklahoma City, and I’m hoping to suit up and be a part of the team on opening night.”

Prodigal Files For Possible USL Pro Soccer Team Names

Doing a quick search on the US Patent and Trademark Office, I ran across two names that had been filed by Prodigal for “Entertainment services, namely, organizing, providing and conducting professional soccer exhibitions and games.” Those two names are “OKC Energy FC” and “OKC Spirit FC.”

Neither really invoke any feeling from me as far as a team name. In a league such as USL PRO, with team names such as “Barracuda,” “Rhinos,” and “Hammerheads,” both names seem to fall short of the bar already set. Energy doesn’t roll off the tongue when cheering, and anytime I see Spirit, I’m only going to think of cheerleaders chanting “We’ve got spirit, yes we do; We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?”

But I digress, what say you about the possible team names? Leave a comment or send me a tweet at @ericrsports.

UPDATE: I also found that Prodigal filed for the use of “Tulsa Roughnecks FC” as well. Tulsa has been mentioned before by the NASL group as another possible location for a soccer team. Interesting to see if Tulsa may turn into another battleground between Prodigal and the NASL group.

Oklahoma City Soccer Battleground Explained, and What Effect That Could Have on the Barons

In case you hadn’t heard. Oklahoma City is in the midst of a war between rival professional soccer leagues. In one corner, we have Sold Out Strategies, a group that currently runs Oklahoma City FC, a fourth-tier soccer team currently playing in the Premier Development League. Heading up Sold Out Strategies is a name that many OKC hockey fans are familiar with in Brad Lund. Lund was a lead executive for much of the run of the old Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team with Express Sports. After his departure with the Barons, he moved on to the Missouri Mavericks and their start.

In the other corner, we have Prodigal Sports Management. Prodigal is of course the lead management group for the Oklahoma City Barons, running the tickets and promotions of the team for the Edmonton Oilers-owned team. Prodigal is owned by Bob Funk Jr., the man who took over the reins of the Oklahoma City Blazers for their final year before shutting down the team for financial reasons.

So we have two gentlemen, very ensconced in the recent history of hockey in Oklahoma City, both trying to create the foundation of professional soccer in OKC. Lund and SOS are looking to bring a North American Soccer League team to the city, a second-tier league that features teams in the US, Canada (Edmonton), and Puerto Rico. Prodigal on the other hand is bringing in a United Soccer Leagues PRO team, which was announced officially a few weeks ago.

Leaving out the hockey aspect, why is this such a big deal?

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