New Orleans Jesters head coach Kenny Farrell is optimistic about his team's upcoming season. He's been with the local soccer team since 2009 and is hoping to see some of the fruits of his recent labor. Developing nearby talent has always been the goal. Sometimes there are growing pains. This season he's hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since his inaugural season. "The local players that we have been grooming to play at this level over the past few years will be critical and play a major part in our drive for the playoffs and a national championship this year," Farrell stated. The team finished fourth in the Southeast Conference in 2013 and failed to qualify for the postseason.
According to Farrell, the quality of the players on the roster will be key for the 2014 bunch. Reece Wilson is back after playing professionally in Costa Rica. He's expecting to be a critical cog in the scoring attack, creating opportunities for the offense. Sam Harrell, formerly of Chelsea Football Club, and Gary Stopforth, formerly of Blackburn Rovers in England, are experienced players who will be counted on to close out late games. That was a "main concern" to Farrell who said the team slacked defensively and gave up too many late goals last year. "We expect to be a skillful squad capable of possessing the ball for long periods of time and generating some very well played and exciting soccer," Ferrell noted when predicting the Jesters strengths. Possession football with quick ball movement is the style of play fans have come to expect. The head coach says that'll continue.
The Jesters competed in the National Premier Soccer League for the first time in 2013. They'll do so again this season. Farrell had been looking at the league for a few years before switching over from the USL Premier Development League. That's where the team competed since 2003. He's glad the Jesters made the switch, "the league is more sensitive to the needs of developing franchises." Farrell says the competition has been the similar, if not better. "I do believe it is the league of the future and in the next few years the NPSL will be the main league between college players and the major leagues," he added.
Fan support is always welcome. As of early May, team officials told Where Y'at over 500 season tickets were sold. The Jesters will play seven home matches during the two-month regular season. "We want our fans to be the 12th Man at our home games. They are brilliant and every year our fans get better," the head coach said. The club plays their home contest at Pan American Stadium in New Orleans. It was renovated and re-opened in 2008 after it was virtually wiped out by the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Since then new state-of-the-art FieldTurf surface has been installed at the stadium, to go along with new bleachers, a new press box, a new scoreboard and renovated locker rooms. The stadium renovations were provided in part by the National Football League Youth Football Fund on behalf of the New Orleans Saints. It enables Pan American to host countless local sporting events including the Jesters. It's located on Zachary Taylor Drive, New Orleans, LA 70122 and seats about 5,000 fans (if needed).
This year the Jesters have partnered with Rock N' Bowl for a World Cup/Meet the Jesters viewing party on June 16 for the USA's opening game versus Ghana. It's open to the public but it's especially for the kids and families of the Jesters soccer partner, Carrollton Boosters. About 700 people are expected to be there. World Cup fever never hurt clubs like the Jesters. Interest in soccer is sky high. Kids and their families are aware and focused on the biggest sporting event in the world. Farrell's noticed the USA's recent success has helped interest spread: "The fans are more educated and knowledgeable than ever. The interest in the World Cup is greater than it has ever been and as a result the appreciation for the Jesters is at its all time high with the fans."
"I think it goes without saying that commitment to our community is vital to our success but also to everybody personally that is involved with the Jesters. As much as we can be involved and do a good job in our community, we want to be there. A night at a Jesters game is, without question, some of the best entertainment in the city on a game night," Farrell said.