His whole life, Kevin Ten Eyck has been immersed in the soccer culture in Wichita.
He played club soccer in the area, played for Maize in high school, then went on to play for the Wings and B-52s indoor teams. If you’ve played soccer in Wichita, then there’s a good chance your path has crossed with Ten Eyck over the years.
Never, in all of those years, has Ten Eyck come across a player who will have the chance he does this season on the second installment of FC Wichita.
“I’ve never heard of one person who has played in the U.S. Open Cup,” Ten Eyck said.
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It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for any aspiring player and FC Wichita locked up its place in the prestigious tournament by winning the conference championship in the National Premier Soccer League.
FC Wichita will play host to the Des Moines Menace on May 11 at the Stryker Soccer Complex and if they win that, then would host the Tulsa Roughnecks on May 18 in the second round.
If a winning streak develops, then the team could potentially be traveling to play a Major League Soccer team in the fourth round.
“What person would not dream of going to play Sporting KC in front of their fans?” Ten Eyck said. “That’s actually a big reason why I decided to come back this season. Hosting the U.S. Open Cup is a huge deal and it’s not something that’s going to happen every year.”
After an 11-3, championship-winning inaugural season, FC Wichita has undergone a makeover in the offseason.
To allow the team to grow in his vision, Larry Inlow decided to take on an advanced role in the organization as director of soccer operations. John Markey, a Bethany College graduate, is now the team’s manager.
Inlow is committed to incorporating local talent and has done so again by bringing back Ten Eyck, defender Alex Morgan (Maize), midfielder Brent Hobson (Valley Center), midfielder Nick Cramer (Northwest), and keeper Steven Hamersky (Carroll).
“I believe it’s very important to implement people from within your community,” Inlow said. “We are Wichita. I was born and raised in Wichita and I was given my first chance with the Wichita Wings, so I want to payback that opportunity.”
But maybe the biggest addition was convincing Chris Lemons, who played seven years professionally, to come out of retirement. Lemons, who currently coaches the girls soccer team at Andover, is expected to make an immediate impact.
“The guy is probably the most talented player I’ve ever played with,” Ten Eyck said. “His skill is unreal anad his intelligence on the field is out of this world. He’s going to be a huge asset for us, not just on the field but in the locker room too.”
FC Wichita opens its season Friday with a road trip to the Little Rock Rangers.
The final roster includes 33 players who hail from 15 countries. That diversity has made for interesting training sessions so far and the team is still awaiting on some of their players to finish up their school work before joining the team.
One player who has already made a big impression on the team has been German-born Jeffrey Kyei, who will play a key role in FC Wichita’s attack this season.
“I can tell you right now this guy is going to become a fan favorite,” Inlow said. “Once they hear his name once, it will be engrained in their brains because he’s going to be that exciting to watch.”
Without a full roster yet, it’s difficult for anyone on the team to assess how this team stacks up to last season. But there’s no doubt that the ultimate goal still remains.
“That expectationg is never going to change as long as I’m alive,” Inlow said. “I don’t care if we’re playing ping-pong, a championship is always on my brain.”