With the completion of the 2018 regular season, The Mighty Oak finished top of the table in the Great Lakes Conference and top of the nation in goals allowed per game (.333 avg). Center back Stanley Okumu was a huge reason Ann Arbor allowed only 4 goals in 12 matches and the twenty-one year old Kenyan has left an impression on opponents, opposing coaches and scouts alike.
Okumu was the only AFC Ann Arbor player to be on the pitch every minute of the 488 minute streak where they held opponents without a goal. He dazzled fans with his passing ability both creatively in small spaces and especially down the pitch to play over the defenders to his attacking wingers.
He has done so well, that he has been extended the opportunity to join a professional club on trial in the United Soccer League (USL) and Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland knows Stanley is very deserving.
“Pushing players on is always a part of the dialogue when we are recruiting a player who we believe has the capacity to move up levels of the game here in North America. So that was very much apart of the conversation when working with Stanley before he committed to AFC Ann Arbor. We made it very clear that if he did well for us, day in and day out, we would work hard to provide opportunities for him to move up the ladder of football,” said Rudland.
“Anyone who has seen us play can tell he is a cut above the standard NPSL/PDL level player. His pace and athleticism are top shelf and he has soft feet as well, which is a necessity for high level center backs. Most importantly though is his mentality. He trains like an animal every day and goes about his day with winning as the primary focus,” he added.
From the team perspective, with the playoffs around the corner, losing one of your most talented players can be challenging, but for Rudland, it’s expected.
“We know where we stand in the football pyramid. So we take it as our job to identify potential pro prospects, give them a platform to prove themselves, and then open up pathways for them to advance their career. Obviously we had high hopes that Stanley would be of that pedigree, and when he proved that he was, we started working immediately to open up doors for him at the USL level.”
As news develops on Okumu’s professional trial, we’ll be sure to keep you updated. For now, the club is wishing Stanley all the best as he pursues his dream at the next level.