5 Minutes with Matt VanOekel
Matt Van Oekel’s a tall guy – 6’4” to be exact. He’s a goalkeeper for Minnesota United FC and he’s married (sorry, ladies). But all of those things you can learn from a quick Google search.
What you won’t find? Well, he loves the television show “Game of Thrones.” His favorite soccer player growing up was Edwin van der Sar and if he hadn’t become a professional soccer player, the Virginia native would have become a country singing NASCAR driver. Or something like that.
I caught up with Minnesota United’s starting goalkeeper days after the team took a big win over FC Edmonton as they started to gear up for San Antonio coming to town.
Pretty big win for you guys on the road this weekend!
Yeah, it was real big. We came out fired up. We knew that we needed three points to keep us going for the league championship this fall and it was a good win for us.
The fall season is underway and with three home games under the team’s belt, two of them have ended in draws. What’s been the biggest challenge in those situations?
The biggest challenge has been keeping our focus and not having those mental letdowns. Usually teams only get one opportunity on us and it seems that every one they are taking is a goal so we need to make sure that we’re all matched up in the box, not giving them those easy opportunities.
You’ve been playing here for six years. What’s been the biggest change since the new ownership took over, besides the name change?
All of the employees in the front office. It’s not just Angie Blaker (director of operations) running around doing everything for us. We have camera crews, we have reporters, we even have a goalkeepers’ coach (Paul O’Connor). That’s the biggest thing for me personally. And we have a lot more fans in the stands now.
Having goalkeeper coach Paul O’Conner join the coaching staff has got to be a big deal for you.
It’s nice because I don’t have to make up drills anymore. Me and Mitch (Hildebrandt) get somebody that is another pair of eyes that can yell at us. It’s a lot more beneficial for training.
Minnesota United hosts the San Antonio Scorpions Saturday at the National Sports Center. The last time you guys played in Texas, things got a little intense both on the field and off. What do you expect this weekend?
I think it’s going to be the same thing, definitely going to be playing for Trainer Tom a little bit. But it’s going to be a heated battle. It always is between us. No doubt! Final question.
What’s one random fact that fans don’t know about you? First thing that comes to mind.
My left foot is a half-size bigger than my right foot.
How do you buy cleats?
Ugh, you just squeeze into them.
Catch Matt Van Oekel and the rest of Minnesota United’s team in action Saturday as they host the San Antonio Scorpions at 2:30pm at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn. Tickets on sale now at (763) 331-8777.
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