7 wins, 1 draw and no losses while outscoring opponents 31 to 9 in preeason action has elevated the team's confidence going into the 2019 regular season.
Las Vegas, NV – After a succesful preseason, new team manager Eric Wynalda is ready to lead Lights FC into regular season action with Las Vegas facing USL Championship newcomer Austin Bold FC on Saturday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.
“Last year it was a show, but this year it’s going to be a WINNING show”, stated midfielder Matt Thomas, who scored the first regular season goal in team history only 70 seconds into Lights FC’s 2018 debut against Fresno FC in which Las Vegas won 3-2 on the road back in March 2018.
Las Vegas finished preseason action with an undefeated record of 7 wins and a draw in their 8 matches, elevating the belief that 2019 will be a different story on the field compared to what happened in Lights FC’s inaugural campaign. “The way we played in the preseason gives everyone a bunch of confidence, both individually and as a team. We can do something special together, being undefeated in the preseason against high quality teams gives us a good amount of confidence coming in into the season”, said Thomas.
That confidence is being felt all throughout the team and front office, including Lights FC owner Brett Lashbrook who is putting his money where his mouth is by guaranteeing that Las Vegas will defeat Austin Bold FC on Opening Night. If Las Vegas doesn’t win (i.e. a draw or a loss), then every fan in attendance will get a free ticket to the next home match on March 30 against Real Monarchs SLC.
“We’re taking this action to make sure our fans know our level of confidence. We are not the same Lights FC from the 2018 season. I hope this helps get the attention of all sports fans in Las Vegas. We plan on big things this season -- come join us as we start the ride to become 2019 USL Cup Champions!”, said Lashbrook.
“The owner said that we need to win, so let’s do this”, said midfielder Pablo Cruz one of 17 newcomers to Lights FC’s 2019 roster. Better known by his nickname “Lito”, Cruz has become an undisputed member for Las Vegas’ starting XI with stellar performances both in-game and at practices, “As a team we’re working hard, we all want to get to the highest level possible. We’re all happy to be here and we want to win”, said the Pasadena native who returned to the United States after a stint in the Armenian Premier League.
The preseason success has put a spotlight on Lights FC, which they embrace as every time they take the field there’s only one objective: WINNING. And now that the games count towards the standings that brings extra motivation.
“Now the real deal kicks off, battling for points. That’s what we’ve been getting ready for in the last couple of months. We all trust each other, this is a healthy group with everyone pulling to the same side both with coaches and players, and you can see that on the field”, Argentinian midfielder Lucas Scaglia said.
Pablo "Lito" Cruz has gained the confidence of Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda, earning a spot on the team's starting lineup.
MLS SPRING TRAINING
When Major League Soccer Spring Training debuted in February 2018, Lights FC was defeated by all 3 MLS opponents they faced at Cashman Field: 2-0 vs Montreal Impact, 3-2 vs Vancouver Whitecaps and 4-2 vs DC United.
But in 2019 Las Vegas defended their home pitch, getting their first victory over a Major League Soccer team by trouncing 2017 MLS Cup champions Toronto FC by a score of 5-1. Following it up with a close matchup with Colorado Rapids that ended with a 2-2 draw, in which Lights FC was the clear aggressor by accumulating a total of 11 shots on goal.
Since training camp kicked off, Lights FC played a total of 8 preseason matches. Their undefeated record was close to being a perfect one, as they won 7 of those matches and their only draw came against Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids 2-2. In these preparation games, Las Vegas outscored their opponents by an aggregate of 31 goals to 9.
What do opponents feel when is coming their way with the ball? DANGER and that’s the nickname of the Inglewood native who shined in preseason action. Against Toronto FC he got the start and played 65 minutes, in which he became a headache for the MLS team by scoring the goal that sent Las Vegas to the halftime break with a 2-0 lead. Every time he touched the ball, the Canadian side felt “danger” coming their way as Parra had a total of 4 shots on goal, with one being his first goal with Las Vegas, 2 of them hitting the posts and the other being a save by goalkeeper Alex Bono. He scored a brace against Orange County SC, leading Lights FC to victory 2-1 in the preseason finale for Las Vegas.
Lights FC Owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook made the commitment that the team would always have a local player on the team. Of the 5 returnees from the inaugural season roster, 3 of them are players born & raised in Las Vegas: Goalkeepers Thomas Olsen (Bishop Gorman) and Angel Alvarez (Rancho H.S.), plus midfielder Matt Thomas (Palo Verde H.S.). Olsen and Alvarez both saw limited playing time in 2018, but now are battling for the starting goalie position. Matt Thomas was the Vegas native that saw most playing time last year as he was on the pitch for a total of 22 matches, in which he scored 3 goals including the first ever in franchise regular season history.
The 6’2 defender stood out in the preseason as the leader of Lights FC’s back line. A graduate of UCLA where he had a standout 4 year career, Torre was selected with the 56th overall pick in the 2016 MLS Superdraft by Colorado Rapids, although he didn’t sign with them. Got his first big break in the professional ranks when he joined FSV Frankfurt for the 2017-2018 season in Germany, now he’s back in the country he represented in the youth level in prestigious competitions like the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the Toulon Tournament in France and the Concacaf U-20 Championship.
His charisma off the field quickly made AlexNyarko Harlley, a.k.a. “Acapulco”, a fan favorite with soccer supporters in Las Vegas. He backed up his flashy persona in his preseason Lights FC debut as he scored the team’s first goal by stealing the ball from Toronto’s goalkeeper Alex Bono and scoring with an open net in the 38th minute of the game. Lights FC closed off the preseason defeating 2-1 USL opponent Orange County SC, with the second Vegas goal coming off another pressure from the Togo native on the opposing goalkeeper from who he stole the ball to assist Irvin Parra who netted the game winning goal. Goalkeepers beware of Acapulco, you’ve been warned.
CAMEROON YOUTH NATIONAL TEAM STARS
Eric Wynalda has an eye for talent, and he didn’t hesitate when presented with the opportunity of signing 2 of the sport’s rising stars in Cameroon. Tabort Etaka Preston (20 years old) represented his native country in the U-20 African Cup of Nations in 2017, where he was a started in the Lions’ three group matches. Bin Adolf Enow (18 years old) has received multiple invitations to be a part of Cameroon’s famed youth national team camps, where his skills and speed turned him into one of the most promising young strikers in his country.
UNITED NATIONS OF SOCCER
Jokingly, Eric Wynalda says that his team is the United Nations of Soccer because of the diversity that he has in his locker room. Players born in 6 different countries are a part of the Lights FC roster, but a total of 11 nations are represented as there are players who have dual citizenship like Javan Torre (USA/Brazil), Edwin Rivas (USA/Guatemala), Pablo Cruz (USA/Honduras) and Mobi Fehr (who actually has 3 nationalities as he was born in Manhattan, New York, but his mother is from Japan and his father is from Switzerland). The only continent not represented in Lights FC’s roster is Australia …. maybe coach Wynalda can scout talent “Down Under” for the team to complete the UNITED NATIONS OF SOCCER BINGO GAME.
Lights FC has improved defensively in comparison to last year's team. In preseason action, they've allowed 9 goals in 8 games this year, compared to the 9 goals in 3 games they received in MLS Spring Training action in 2018.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m., new start time for Lights FC regular season matches in 2019. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, both the box office and will call open at 2:00 p.m. on gameday.
Las Vegas Lights FC fans will be able to follow-up along every match of the 2019 USL Championship season via national & local media outlets. Saturday's game will be broadcasted locally on MyLVTV & worldwide on ESPN + with Jeff Radcliffe on the call as the play by play announcer. Alvaro Puentes & Alejandro Romo will call the action in the Spanish-language radio broadcast available on ESPN Deportes 1460 AM & online on LVSportsNetwork.com.