20-year-old midfielder Cristian Gonzalez works during the club's first full day of training on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. Gonzalez is one of seven preseason roster signees announced today by Lights FC. (Idris Erba / Lights FC)
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Seven more players are now officially signed to the Las Vegas Lights FC preseason roster, with Soccer Spring Training play at Cashman Field just under a month away.
Last week, Lights FC announced the signings of five players with local Las Vegas roots to the camp roster, and that is now followed by a group of talented, well-rounded and experienced players who each took different paths to Downtown Las Vegas. The seven signees announced today represent three different countries (United States, Canada and El Salvador) with combined playing experience playing in six different countries (Germany, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico and United States). Four of the players have competed in Mexican professional leagues and two have Major League Soccer experience in the U.S.
The club currently has more than 20 players either signed or in town on a trial basis training daily under the tutelage of head coach Chelís and his staff ahead of the Feb. 10 Soccer Spring Training opener against Major League Soccer (MLS) club Montreal Impact.
The seven latest players being signed to club contracts for the preseason are:
“As stated from day one, Lights FC is committed to building a roster that is as diverse as our community,” Lights FC Owner & CEO Brett Lashbrook said. “We are so excited to bring international players who have been playing the world’s game around the globe to Downtown Las Vegas to help grow soccer both in our great city and in America.
“Finding players with recent experience with both Liga MX and Major League Soccer clubs falls right in line with that commitment to compete at a high level right out of the gates in our inaugural season.”
--- Zak Drake comes to Las Vegas having experienced both youth and professional soccer in all corners of the globe. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, he has played the game in Germany, Australia, Portugal and Brazil. An aggressive defender, he’s built his style to include tributes to each of his previous stops.
“I’m a workhorse, and I’ll run my ass off for 90 minutes,” Drake said. “That aspect is always really present when I’m on the field.
“I really like the idea of playing on a brand new team. I want to bring my experience from across the globe and be a role model for younger players on the roster in terms of my professionalism and my work ethic.”
--- Cristian Gonzalez is originally from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he helped lead Coronado HS to a 2014 state championship as a sophomore. From there, he took a shot at his professional dream early, when he was invited to Mexico by Club America. He was invited on trial by the storied club three times, and now embraces an opportunity to show what he can bring to the American professional soccer landscape.
“For me, this is really special – this feels like my professional debut,” Gonzalez said. “And I feel like this is going to be really big. I’ve been working really hard and I’m ready.”
--- A native of San Diego, Calif., Jorge Guillen-Torres got a major taste of the big-time in 2016, training with the Argentinian and Mexican National Teams in Copa America. He’s already gained some professional experience in the lower divisions of professional soccer in the United States. He caught the Lights FC coaching staff’s eyes throughout his time at multiple combine events.
“As soon as (the coaching staff) was looking, you’ve got to do what you could do to stand out,” Guillen-Torres recalled. “It was tough, but thankfully they were watching.
“Now, whatever happens, I want to learn from one of the best in Mexico in Chelís.”
--- Oscar Hernandez is also from the San Diego area, and like Guillen-Torres, also starred for the program at East Lake HS. He then played professionally for Mexican first division club Club Atlas.
Hernandez also made a name for himself earlier in his career, participating in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup throughout his youth while competing for elite amateur adult clubs in Southern California.
“Since arriving in Las Vegas, I’ve treated it all as if it was my last day here, and I left it all out there,” Hernandez said of the combine experience. “I didn’t want to be that player who was really good but didn’t make sure to show what he had.”
--- Also looking to take his young professional career to the next level is Juan Herrera-Perla, who was raised in Dallas, Texas, after moving to America from El Salvador when he was 5 years old. He played throughout his youth in Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas youth academy, and has trained with the club’s first team.
Herrera-Perla played in the FC Dallas Academy under now-current MLS head coach Oscar Pareja, and credits him for much of his success to date.
“When I got the call (to advance to the next round of Lights FC trials), I thought ‘Please, don’t let this be my mom’ for the first time ever,” he recalled. “I got past Stage 1, past Stage 2, past Stage 3, now I’m in Stage 4 and can’t wait to see where it goes.”
--- Alex Mendoza brings a wealth of professional experience, both in the U.S. and Mexico, to the club. The Harrisburg, Pa., native played professionally with Pumas of Liga MX for four years after graduating high school, seeing time with both the first and second division clubs. In 2013, he was given the opportunity to play professionally close to home, when he signed with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. He most recently played professional indoor soccer in his hometown of Harrisburg.
Now he believes he’s found a stylistic fit to continue his outdoor playing career in the U.S.
“I’m relentless, and I always like to cover as much ground as I can,” Mendoza said. “This staff seems to be very attacking-minded, and that’s always my goal out there.”
--- Another young Liga MX veteran, Andres Muñiz, who is from Anaheim, Calif., played for Monarcas Morelia for the last five years. The scoring forward is now excited for his family to be able to make the regular road trips to see him play.
One of the highlights of Muñiz’s young career came in 2015, when he was the leading goal scorer in the U-20 Liga MX tournament.
“I thought this was a great opportunity for me to come play closer to home,” he said. “I’ve seen Chelís coach back in Mexico, and I think he’s a really good coach. The chance to play for him could be a great learning experience for me.”
Single game tickets for Lights FC's first four home matches - the three Soccer Spring Training MLS preseason contests and the March 24th USL regular season home opener against in-state rival Reno 1868 FC - are now on sale, starting at just $15. Single game tickets can be purchased by visiting LightsFC.com/SingleTix, or by calling 702.728.GOAL (4625) during regular business hours.
Lights FC 2018 season tickets are also still on sale, starting at just $200. Each season ticket purchased includes a free team jersey (valued at $80). Ticket for groups of 10 or more are also now on sale, starting at just $18 per ticket, with each ticket purchased including a free Lights FC scarf (valued at $20). For more ticketing inquiries, visit LightsFC.com/Tickets.