Lights FC defender Joseph Patrick Perez is introduced before the club's match at Cashman Field vs. Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday, August 18, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
Defender Joseph Patrick Perez
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At such a young age, Joseph Patrick Perez has already gained experience playing soccer professionally in two completely different worlds.
After graduating from high school in his hometown of Anaheim, Calif., Perez – a Mexican-American defender – signed with Puebla FC of Liga MX, which is Mexico’s first division of professional soccer.
He spent three years in Puebla playing with the club’s U-20 squad, then an opportunity to join Las Vegas Lights FC on loan in the middle of its inaugural USL season came about.
Now, with family nearby as he continues on his professional soccer journey, the 21-year-old has made five appearances and four starts in the second half of the season for Lights FC. He took a few minutes to talk about his experiences so far with his second pro club.
Q: After your first few matches with this club, what has been your overall impression of not just being in Las Vegas, but also being back in the United States as a professional?
A: “It’s great. I love being able to see family more often. The style of play out here is good, too. After three years of not playing in the U.S., I definitely feel like the level of soccer out here is improving. It’s getting a lot better. It’s been great for me overall.”
Q: What was your experience like going to Mexico at such a young age to play professionally?
A: “It was difficult at first. Especially getting out there as a kid from the United States, you still get treated a little differently. You’re looked at as an American, even though I have Mexican blood. But I was able to earn the confidence of my teammates, I started performing well and the respect from my teammates came after that.”
Q: With that experience in your back pocket, what has really translated well for you on the pitch so far in your time as a pro now playing in the U.S.?
A: “I think the style of play – Knowing how to play with the ball in the sense of touches, how to possess and move. There were things I wasn’t taught here in the U.S. as an amateur, such as being quicker and more physical with the ball.”
Q: Should the opportunity to play pro in Mexico come again, on the other hand, what will you take back there from your pro experience here in the U.S.?
A: “Being very physical, knowing how to mark and defend quicker guys. The forwards in Mexico, they’re used to having the ball and playing it off to teammates. Here, they’re a lot quicker, they move around a lot more. I think it’s going to help me in the future in my career, that I know how to mark all kinds of different attackers.”
Q: On a personal level, what has this opportunity to play professionally in the U.S. meant to you so far?
A: “It means a lot, because I hadn’t seen my family in quite a while like this. When I see my mom in the stands and she’s yelling and going all crazy, it’s so good. They’ve been to several games. They were at the Orange County game in August, and have come up to Vegas two or three times so far to see me play.”
Q: And what have your overall impressions of being in Las Vegas, in particular, been so far?
A: “You know, it’s a really nice city. I like it a lot. I feel like people need to really explore the city here. It’s so much more than the Strip. I really like the hiking out here, and there’s so much other cool stuff.”
Q: And within this roster, which features players of all ages and experience levels, how have you been able to fit in to this point?
A: “Right now, I feel comfortable here with this team. We have a pretty united, strong group. We all have the same goal of winning when we come out, and we love trying to give a good show to our fans.”