Okumu Named 2018 TopDrawerSoccer.com Player of the Year

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The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and TopDrawerSoccer.com (TDS) announced Thursday that Joseph Stanley Okumu, center back for Association Football Club Ann Arbor, has been selected as the 2018 Player of the Year, an award selected by the staff at TDS.

“Over the course of AFC Ann Arbor's young history there have been a handful of very talented players who have suited up for the club. So for Stanley to be the first player in our club history to be named the Top Drawer Soccer NPSL National Player of the Year is a great honor, and he is very deserving of this award,” said Head Coach & Sporting Director Eric Rudland.

The Kenyan center back joined The Mighty Oak in April, after spending time with the Free State Stars (South Africa), as well as the Kenyan U23 Men’s National Team.

His impact was felt in the first training session bringing a level of intensity and professionalism, second to none. It didn’t take more than a few minutes into that session for his teammates to recognize his talents, but Okumu’s dedication to developing his skills, his hard working mentality and his winning mindset helped contribute to the high level training environment developed by Rudland and his staff.

“Stanley lived up to all of the expectations we had for him; he was a great man in the change room, trained every session at full tilt and was an impact player for us in every match. Realistically we couldn't have asked for anything more from him,” added Rudland.

From the first match, fans were blown away with Okumu’s ability to defend as well as his passing ability. One of his first passes in a match was at Milwaukee in the NPSL season opener where he struck a ball from box to box finding the feet of winger, JP Rylah. That match also marked the beginning of 5 plus matches where The Mighty Oak held opponents scoreless (488 consecutive minutes to be exact).  

Okumu played a massive role in the defensive efforts that resulted in the fewest goals allowed per game average in the country, nine clean sheets, a number of club records and of course the second consecutive Great Lakes Championship.

“We always talk about defending as a team concept, with each of our 11 players playing a critical role in regaining possession. To start the 2018 campaign we went 488 minutes without conceding a goal. Stanley was obviously key for us in that stretch in setting the tone for our defense mindset,” said Rudland.

Okumu has surely left his mark on this community, the fan base, and his teammates while making history as the club’s first National Player of the Year recipient.

Here’s what some of his teammates had to say about him:

When Stanley steps on the pitch, you instantaneously feel it. He brings not only talent and athleticism to a back line, but also passion and that competitive spirit. He is the kind of player that makes everyone around him a better overall player.
— Matt Braem, Defender
It’s always special to play with high level players, so playing with Stan was a great experience. I learned from him everyday from how he carried himself to his approach on the pitch. He’s one of those guys who leads without having to say very much, an all around great guy and class act.
— Azaad Liadi, Forward
He’s one of the best defenders I’ve played with. His soccer IQ is unteachable along with his height and his ability to thread the needle to find forwards into space. He’s one special defender and it is no coincidence he’s receiving this well-deserved recognition.
— Mike Novotny, Goalkeeper
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