Midfielder Alex Mendoza
***** Leer en español aquí *****
On a roster that is a true melting pot not just of nationalities, but of professional soccer career paths, Alex Mendoza’s certainly stands out on its own.
The Lights FC midfielder grew up in Harrisburg, Pa., and after graduating high school, had an opportunity to go play for Pumas UNAM of LigaMX. He began there with its U-20 club as a teammate of current Lights FC defender Miguel Garduño, and would spend four years in Mexico City before getting an opportunity to return close to home with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
Since 2013, his soccer career has taken Mendoza on a winding path which now finds him in Las Vegas, as the leading goal-scorer for Lights FC just two games into its inaugural USL season. A testament to the team’s quality depth, he’s scored a goal in each of the club’s first two games – both times doing so just minutes after checking in as a substitute.
Mendoza took a few minutes to discuss his experiences to this point in Las Vegas and the importance of staying ready at all times – which has already shown benefits for him.
Q: You’re the team’s leading goal scorer through two games, scoring in each match as a substitute. Has there been a consistent reason behind that early offensive success?
A: “Being ready at all times is important for all of us. We have to have the mentality that, at any second, you could get brought into the game. Taking advantage of opportunities – Both times, I’ve found the ball close to me and been fortunate to finish it off.”
Q: Your goal on Saturday night against rival Reno 1868 FC seemed especially memorable, happening right in front of the Supporters Section and setting the stadium off into a frenzy. What was that moment like?
A: “I don’t know if I have the words to describe what it felt like. It was special to me. It gave us some momentum, it was unfortunate that they were able to come right back at us and score, but it gave us all a spark in that game.”
Q: It was another example, too, of this team really connecting with the local fans. How fast has that connection between club and fan developed from your perspective?
A: “There’s been many times so far where I keep seeing the same fans around our events. I know some of them now, and they’ll come up and talk to me. I think being as immersed into the community as we have been in just a short time here has been a big help to the team in making that connection.”
Q: Overall, how would you sum up your experience to date in Las Vegas?
A: “As far as soccer, for me, I don’t want to say I had expectations. I’ve taken everything day by day. On the field, I’m working my hardest every day. As far as adapting to the city, I love it so far. It’s been nice to get to know people and things to do around here.”
Q: This team seems like it’s come together really fast, too. Is that accurate?
A: “I’ve never been a part of an expansion team, but overall, this team has gotten very close very fast. We all have that same drive, that same mentality and that’s very important. There have been times for me on other teams where I’ve seen the locker room get divided or had to deal with major off-field issues. I think here, it’s the way the coaching staff runs things. Chelís has talked to us about how we’re all here because we’re good people. And I’d agree with him 100%.”
Q: You’ve had a very unique professional career path in this game. What makes this stop in particular a unique part on its own within that picture?
A: “Obviously, the team has exploded here in a very short time. There have been a lot of new things happening all at once, and that stands out to me. Everyone is working hard to make this team successful, and it’s special for me to be a part of a league that is exploding in America and is proving to be very strong.”
Q: With everything you’ve been through previously as a pro, it seems like that’s prepared you well for this experience, too. Would that be accurate?
A: “Everything stems from Mexico, and my experience playing there. Since then, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, so that prepared me for everything. The club I was with there prepared me for life, knowing what to expect professionally and how to manage all kinds of situations. In the sports world, things change fast. I don’t like to live with the mentality that I’m ever ‘home’ in one place. But I like it here quite a bit.”
Lights FC midfielder Alex Mendoza (14) watches his first half strike hit the back of the net in the club's 1-1 draw vs. Reno 1868 FC on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Cashman Field. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)