#1 Matt VanOekel
Height: 6’ 4”
Hometown: Chesapeake, VA
Previous Club: OKC Energy FC (USL Championship)
In 27 appearances for the Three Sparks in 2021, Legion’s Defensive Player of the Year earned himself 9 clean sheets (tied for 4th in USLC) and 84 saves (7=) with a 76.4% success rate. In addition, VanOekel made 11 catches, 13 punches, and 21 clearances. During the Black and Gold’s rival match versus Memphis at the historic Legion Field on May 15, VanOekel recorded his career-first assist that led to a 1-0 shutout victory for Birmingham.
VanOekel made 14 appearances for Legion FC in 2020, racking up four clean sheets (tied for 9th in USLC) and 36 saves (12th) for a goals against average of 1.21. He also added 13 clearances, six catches, seven punches, and played a vital role in the game-tying goal at Charlotte on August 12.
Legion FC’s captain and Goalkeeping Coach made 30 appearances for Birmingham in 2019 in his first season with the club and finished fifth in the USL Championship in shutouts with five. In 2018, he played for OKC Energy FC and in 18 matches, allowed just 26 goals. He signed with Real Salt Lake in 2017 and played in six matches for RSL. In 2015, VanOekel signed with NASL team FC Edmonton and was named the 2016 NASL Golden Glove winner.
VanOekel joined the Minnesota Thunder roster in 2009, after impressing the coaches in an open tryout, and stayed with the team as they transitioned from playing in the USL to the North American Soccer League as the Minnesota Stars and, then, Minnesota United. VanOekel featured in 118 games with United, winning the 2011 NASL Championship and the 2014 NASL Spring Season title.