Steven Perry always dreamed of playing professional soccer. He never dreamed he would do it in Oklahoma City, but that all changed this year when Prodigal LLC formed an expansion team in the United Soccer League’s Pro division.
Oklahoma City Energy FC hosts its home opener on Saturday night at Bishop McGuinness’ Pribil Stadium when Orlando City SC comes to town.
Perry couldn’t be more excited to be playing professional soccer on the field where he competed in high school. The Edmond native and McGuinness alum couldn’t put into words how walking onto the field Saturday night would make him feel.
“It’s really exciting and the best part for me is I know Oklahoma City is ready for it,” Perry said. “As a kid I didn’t think grow up thinking ‘Oh I’m going to play professional soccer in OKC.’ Now I think the kids can strive to play professional soccer in Oklahoma City. For me being a hometown guy and being able to play on the first team, I’m pretty lucky.”
Energy FC will play its first season at Pribil Stadium, which was renovated in the winter with upgrades to the field and seats added. The result? A sellout for the first match in the 3,741-seat stadium.
Perry said the team is most excited to play the best team in potentially the best environment in USL.
“We’re not nervous about it, we are ready,” said Perry, who plays forward.
Orlando City (3-0-2) comes into the match as defending champions of the league and fresh off a 3-2 victory in Dallas, where Oklahoma City (2-2-0) lost 1-0 last week. After starting the season with two consecutive draws, Orlando has won three straight to catapult itself into first place with 11 points. Energy FC is in fifth place with six points.
Orlando is led by midfielder Kevin Molino. The Trinidad & Tobago native has three goals this season, which leads the league. Molino, who won league MVP in 2012, has never scored more than two goals in a season with Orlando City and has been part of the team for three seasons.
Orlando City is moving up to join Major League Soccer in 2015, and Molino will be going with them — the team announced him as its first MLS signing earlier this year.
Miguel Gallardo-Aparicio leads Orlando City in goal and has played the full 90 minutes in each of the team’s five contests this season. Gallardo-Aparicio has 10 saves and a .800 goals-allowed average while earning one shutout against Charleston.
With Orlando playing its best soccer of the early season, Oklahoma City will have its hands full. But Perry says an extended layoff was just what the doctor ordered after a match with FC Dallas that saw almost a third of the team go down with a stomach virus.
“Some guys went home to recharge their battery,” Perry said. “You know we’ve been together every day since preseason, so it was nice to get away from each other and then get back into it and have that hunger to keep fighting. And everybody is feeling better again”
Oklahoma City kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday night, and Perry had trouble putting into words what it will be like.
“I think it’s going to be really ... it’s hard to describe. It’s going to be awesome,” Perry said. “I think I’m at a loss for words.”