The Montage published this article on January 25, 2012
New men’s soccer coach Dan O’Keefe has had success at every level during his playing career.
In 1979, as a senior at McCluer High School, O’Keefe scored 39 goals, which was fourth most in Missouri state history at the time, before moving on to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE), where his career mark of 27 goals scored is tied for twelfth most in school history.
Professionally, O’Keefe played for six different teams over ten seasons and was the National Professional Soccer League’s all-time leading scorer by the time he retired in 1994.
While O’Keefe’s experience and local ties were important factors, it was athletic director Johnna Kinney’s confidence in his ability to immediately start scouting new players that was the determining factor in her decision to hire him. The timing of now-former head coach Mike Mayberry’s departure made it imperative for his replacement to hit the ground running in terms of recruiting.
“We wanted someone with local ties that could step right in because we were already past the signing date and recruiting had started for soccer,” Kinney said. “We thought he was the best candidate who could get good recruits in a timely manner.”
As a coach, O’Keefe’s focus is primarily on the development of each individual player. While he does hope to bring a national championship to St. Louis Community College, O’Keefe’s primary goal is to turn out players who can succeed with a four-year program.
“I’m good at developing skills and one of the good things about a junior college is you can just go two years [focusing on] nothing but development,” O’Keefe said. “By the time they’re done with two years with me, I want them to be so ready for the four-year college, that they’re going to make an impact on whatever program they go to from here.”
St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG) Youth Director Ken Godat, whose son Zack trained with O’Keefe early in his playing career, praised the new STLCC men’s soccer coach as “one of the top trainers in St. Louis.”
O’Keefe played professionally for six seasons, three with the Kansas City Comets and three with the Fort Wayne Flames, before briefly retiring in 1988 to coach in Jefferson City. He returned to professional soccer a year later with the Indiana Kick to lead the American Indoor Soccer Association in goals scored.
In 1990, he joined the Detroit Rockers, where he scored 130 goals over two seasons. After winning a championship with the Rockers in 1992, O’Keefe signed with the St. Louis Ambush, with whom he scored 60 goals in 40 appearances. He was traded by the Ambush after the 1993 season to the Baltimore Spirit.
After his playing career ended, O’Keefe remained involved with soccer in the St. Louis area, spending a brief stint as the women’s coach at STLCC-Florissant Valley. More recently, he spent fifteen seasons as a skills trainer for Scott Gallagher Soccer Club.
Inheriting a program that graduated 13 sophomores following a 6-12 season, the new head coach understands that he has his work cut out for him. However, there has been a recent increase in the number of high school players, creating a much deeper pool of college prospects.
“Now, there are so many players,” O’Keefe said. “There are a lot of players that peak late. Florissant Valley, especially, has always gotten players that peak late. [Players] that have great potential, but maybe they didn’t develop it or show it in high school, but then they get to Florissant Valley and they’re just dynamite.”
O’Keefe added that he will benefit tremendously as he begins recruiting from the consolidation of the STLCC men’s soccer program into one team located at Florissant Valley, which will allow him to recruit all over the St. Louis area.
In addition to recruiting, O’Keefe also scouts players through weekly open scrimmages held at the Florissant Valley campus on Monday evenings at 6 p.m.
“Back when I coached at [Florissant Valley] the last time, I basically had a good shot at getting North County kids only. Now, the way it’s spread out with Forest Park and Meramec, I can recruit all over St. Louis,” O’Keefe said. “One central team for the boys and girls that almost triples our strength. The potential to be great is really good.”