Dustin Hooker is no stranger to the Oklahoma City soccer scene, nor to us here at Soc Takes. He sat down for an interview with Nipun Chopra last May to discuss his new team, then known as the Imps. They had been in discussion to join the NPSL, but will instead make their debut this May as part of the UPSL’s new Central Conference.
The vision began a few years ago when he organized a handful of summer games for the local guys who weren’t playing for any teams within the pyramid, but didn’t want to stop playing — players with experience at the collegiate and semi-pro level who still lived and worked in the community. This led him to start discussing opportunities to join a league and have something to play for.
He wound up turning this team, the Pulse, into the Energy FC U23 team in the PDL. However, after running the PDL team for a season, it just wasn’t the right fit for his vision. The PDL, he said, is really focused on player development and making a pathway to pro soccer. There’s certainly a local community element to it, but as a whole, his goals for soccer didn’t line up with what he experienced.
That was when we last spoke with him. Since then, the club has a new name and a new league, but the same goals as ever.
His mission for OKC 1889 is simple: Provide a serious, professionally run team by the community, for the community. He’s been working with many of these players for years now. The coaching staff are all familiar faces among the local youth soccer scene. The sponsors are familiar local businesses.
And when the UPSL got in touch, he found like-minded individuals with similar motivations. They joined the brand new Central Conference, playing in the North Division. Joining OKC 1889 FC are four teams based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
With the team, the goal is to be relatable. As Hooker put it during our conversation on Monday, “if your friend told you ‘hey, my soccer team is playing a game tonight, and tickets are only five bucks,’ you’d go buy a ticket and watch your friend play.”
That goal drew 750 fans at their final game last year. But they aren’t stopping there. Hooker has big aspirations for the team. Maybe some day they could become one of the signature teams in the UPSL, he thinks. It’s a relatively young and rapidly growing league, and no one as of yet is standing out.
“You don’t need to be a professional team to do things professionally,” he said, and he’s already working hard to do just that. The team has an excellent facility in Norman, Okla., a partnership with the local Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center, and a proven head coach in Adam Kay. Kay also coaches for the Oklahoma Celtic youth club as well as for Mid-America Christian University, and holds USSF and UEFA B licenses. “One of the best unknown coaches in the country,” as Hooker put it.
Even before they had a league, these players and coaches made a name for themselves in their community both on and off the field. They’ve held their own against FC Dallas’s top academy teams, won five of seven games played last summer and built a growing fan base. Now that they have a league to call their own, things are looking pretty good.
OKC 1889 FC will begin its 2018 season with a pair of home and away friendlies against the Little Rock Rangers in May, and will kick off its inaugural UPSL campaign at home on May 19 against fellow newcomer Inocentes FC.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMLTX.
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