MLS veteran Jose Villarreal (left) and Jesus Gonzalez (right) join Lights FC' to round up the team roster with it competing in 2 tournaments, USL Championship's regular season ant the U.S. Open Cup.
Las Vegas, NV – Eric Wynalda opened the doors of his team to two players who have a lot to offer to his Lights FC roster: forward Jose Villarreal and midfielder Jesus Gonzalez. Both are cleared to suit up for Las Vegas in tonight’s U.S. Open Cup third round match against Orange County FC.
Jose Villarreal signed a Homegrown Player contract with L.A. Galaxy in December 2011, making his Major League Soccer debut at age 17 and scoring his first MLS goal against Vancouver in only his second match. After being on loan with Liga MX giant Cruz Azul for the first semester of 2014, Villarreal returned to Southern California where he split time between Galaxy’s MLS team and their USL Championship side through 2017 before being traded to Orlando City SC. “Chepe” was a part of the Lions’ roster during the 2018 season and now is ready to make his 2019 debut with Las Vegas.
“It means a lot, it's a second go at it for me and I'm happy to be here, I'm excited,” said Villarreal. “I'm pumped to meet Coach Wynalda and to get to work with him and a bunch of guys that I know from growing up with them in Los Angeles.”
“Jose has always been an extremely talented player,” stated Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. “We're the perfect place for him, watching him last year in Orlando City and he did not get a lot of minutes, I think he was frustrated with that. Now he's motivated, but it's going to take time for him to readjust and acclimate to Las Vegas. But this is a guy that brings quality into the team.”
Jesus Gonzalez has been coached by Eric Wynalda before during his stints with Cal FC and the Atlanta Silverbacks.
While this is the first time that Villarreal will be coached by Eric Wynalda, for Jesus Gonzalez this is a reunion with his former manager. Gonzalez was part of Wynalda’s success in the U.S. Open Cup both in 2012 with Cal FC and in 2014 with the Atlanta Silverbacks, playing in each of the upset wins that both teams had against Major League Soccer wins in the tournament.
“He was a part of that initial Cal FC movement in 2012, Jesus is a player that is very versatile and who impressed me then … he's still the same player,” said Wynalda. “He has one of the best left feet I've ever seen, and that's saying something. There's not a lot of guys that can hit a ball 60 yards on a rope and be that accurate. And the way that we need to play, to vary our attack, it suits him perfectly”.
Gonzalez’s excitement was evident after signing his Lights FC contract, this after he was on trial with the team early on in the season. “It's a big opportunity for me, I'm trying to take advantage of it. I'm trying to help the team win, help better myself. I'm all about the team, so if I can help them, then I'm doing my job.”
Villarreal will wear number 24 for Las Vegas, while Gonzalez will wear number 13. Both are immediately available for coach Eric Wynalda to use them in Lights FC’s USL Championship games and U.S. Open Cup matches.