The hard work and long hours scouting players by new head coach Eric Wynalda and his coaching staff pays off with their first batch of signings for the 2019 Las Vegas Lights FC roster. Now the hard work on the field will commence with Soccer Spring Training action at Cashman Field right around the corner against MLS opponents Toronto FC on February 2nd and Colorado Rapids on February 16th, both matchups with a special start time of 2 p.m.
Players with experience in Major League Soccer, Liga MX, various European leagues, USL and U.S. Men’s National Youth Teams are included in the roster additions, who now join those whose club option was picked up in 2018: Thomas Olsen, Angel Alvarez, Matt Thomas, Christian Torres and Sammy Ochoa.
Olsen, Alvarez & Thomas are all Las Vegas natives that appeared in matches last season for Lights FC.
Pending league and federation approval, a total of 12 new players from 5 different countries have so far signed new contracts with Lights FC:
Edwin Rivas – Forward
Javan Torre – Defender
Kevin Garcia Lopez – Defender
Gabriel Robinson – Defender
Bryan De La Fuente – Defender
Cristhian Hernandez – Midfielder
Pablo Cruz – Midfielder
Eric Gonzalez – Midfielder
Irvin Parra – Midfielder
AlexNyarko Harlley – Midfielder
Lucas Scaglia – Midfielder
Panzani Sousa – Midfielder
One of the goals of Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda was to make the team’s roster a younger one, and so far the average age of the 17 players on it is 25.4 years old.
Lights FC will kickoff their preseason practices on Friday at Cashman Field, more details to be published soon.
Below is additional information on each new Lights FC player signing:
Edwin Rivas – Forward – 5’11 – 1/8/1992 (27 years old)
Selected with the 37th overall pick in the 2015 MLS Superdraft by Toronto FC, he signed his first professional contract with USL club Toronto FC II where he had 18 appearances.
Three sport athlete in High School (soccer, football & basketball), 4-year starter at Cal State Northridge where he was named to the 2012 1st team All-Conference in the Big West.
Eric Wynalda on Rivas: “I think he is incredibly fast, has a wonderful left foot. I got to know him two years ago through what was then called the UPSL. He was in between teams and needed an opportunity. I fell in love with him in the UPSL level with the Wolves. This is an opportunity for him to really embrace and I think he will, I think he’ll have great success in USL."
Javan Torre - Defender - 6’2 - 10/20/1993 (25 years old)
Selected in the 2016 MLS Superdraft by Colorado Rapids with the 56th overall pick, this after playing 4 seasons at UCLA.
Represented the United States in the youth level, seeing action with the national team that in 2013 competed in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France and the CONCACAF U-20 championship. He also played briefly in Germany with FSV Frankfurt in the 2017-2018 season.
He’s a player that takes care of the little details, keeps things simple, but at the same time is creative depending on where he’s playing on the field.
Eric Wynalda on Torre: “This country has known him for a long time, he has been a part of our developmental system as far as the national team programs since a very young age. Everyone has always been very impressed with his ability, had a very good career at UCLA. I have no doubt that he will be a leader and a very good component of our team”.
Kevin Garcia Lopez – Defender – 5’6 – 8/29/1992 (26 years old)
Worked himself up from redshirting in his first season with UC-Santa Barbara, to being the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year in his senior year (2014).
Kevin is a soccer lifer, he has been playing since he was 4 years old and says that being with Lights FC is a “once in a lifetime chance” that he fully intends to take advantage of. He describes himself as an attacking minded defender, laid back but basically like a second right mid.
Eric Wynalda on Garcia Lopez: “I remember him from his days in Santa Barbara. I took him on in the Wolves, had great success with him there and very familiar with his performances with Cal United very recently. I think his talent on the right side mixed with his engine certainly gives him the ability to run for 90 minutes, he is a great weapon on the right side.”
Gabriel Robinson – Defender – 6’2 – 2/5/1995 (23 years old)
He can be considered a late bloomer, as he didn’t start playing soccer until he was 16 years old. But once he did, he did it in a very high level as he enjoys the physical play that is required from his position.
Played his 4-year collegiate career with Cal State – Northridge, where he had the opportunity of participating in a pair of NCAA Tournaments (2013 & 2016). As a freshman, he was a part of the # 3 ranked Matador’s team (highest ranking in school history) and as a senior he experienced winning the Big West Southern Division championship and the Conference Tournament title.
He’s a threat with long throw-ins, giving his teammates opportunities to score from them with his ability to get the ball in the box. His track and field background combined with his height, gives him an advantage both when he’s defending his goal and when he’s attacking the opposing team in set pieces, there’s a very good chance he’s going to beat his opponent to the ball if it’s in the air and he’s close to it.
Eric Wynalda on Robinson: “He’s a guy that that had a trial in Germany last year and some interest in the third and second division there. I don't think he has seen a real opportunity yet, so this will be it. I’m taking a chance with him but I feel that he's up to the task. One thing you’ll remember after watching Gabe play is he’s great in the air, he’s a very strong incredible athlete ... but the throw-in, I’ve never seen anybody throw a ball 60 yards, it’s quite a weapon and we’ll use it.”
Bryan de la Fuente – Defender – 7/1/1992 (26 years old)
Came up through the the famed Chivas youth academies, first in Guadalajara and afterwards in Southern California with Chivas USA, with whom he made his MLS debut in 2010 at the age of 18. He continued his career with Liga MX side Xolos de Tijuana before returning to Chivas USA in 2013.
The following year he accomplished a milestone in his career by getting signed by a team in Europe. He played 2 seasons with FC Ararat Yerevan of the Armenian Premier League, in 2016 he was transferred to league runners-up FC Shirak with which he played for a season.
In 2017 he returned to Los Angeles where he was a key contributor with Cal United winning the UPSL national championships both in the spring and fall seasons.
Eric Wynalda on De La Fuente: “I thought somebody would pick him up, I know he had a trial with LAFC. He’s a pro, he’s very good on the left side and brings a lot of consistency. If you look at the trio of Garcia Lopez-Robinson-De La Fuente, those 3 have over 75 games together on the back line so they have a great understanding of each other. As a leader, I think Bryan will recognize that. There's a lot of consistency already on a team that we’re just formulating right now.”
Cristhian Hernandez – Midfielder – 10/30/93 (25 years old)
A defensive midfielder characterized by his technique, vision and patience on the field of play.
Hernandez is a product of the Liga MX’s Pachuca & MLS’ side LA Galaxy youth academies, making his professional debut with the Philadelphia Union after being signed as the club’s third homegrown player in 2012.
Eric Wynalda on Hernandez: “Some guys when you watch them play, it’s just fun and that’s what happens when you see him. He’s the kind of player that gets you on the edge of your seat and almost subconsciously saying ‘please give him the ball, I want to see what he does next’. I’ve been really impressed with his passing ability, his ability to connect. The reasoning of bringing a guy like him to the team is that he’s going to make the speed guy want to run, he’s the quarterback that will pass you the ball and he has the ability to put it on a dime.”
Pablo Cruz – Midfielder – 12/30/1991 (27 years old)
Represented the U.S. Men’s Youth National Teams with the U17 & U20 categories before receiving his first professional opportunity in 2012 with the Atlanta Silverbacks where he played for three seasons, highlighted by winning the NASL Spring title in 2013.
Made his USL debut with Orange County Blues in 2016 before heading to Europe where he played with Shirak SC for a semester, scoring two goals in his stint in the Armenian Premier League.
“Lito” likes playing simple, but also confronts opposing players both defensively and in attack.
Eric Wynalda on Cruz: “We’re very lucky to get him. He's very talented with the ball, he'll be one of the better players in the league and he's someone that can change the game. Sometimes you gotta wait for it, but I'm a patient manager and those moments of magic when they happen are worth it.”
Eric Gonzalez – Midfielder – 3/24/94 (24 years old)
Was a part of the LA Galaxy Youth Academy, where he won the U16 national title. His abilities took him to represent the United State Men’s National Team in the U-14, U-15 & U-17 categories.
During his senior year in high school, Gonzalez joined the Chivas USA U-18 team, giving him the opportunity to practice with the MLS first team for a full year. Afterwards he accepted a full ride scholarship to UC Riverside, where he played from 2012 thru 2015.
Eric Wynalda on Gonzalez: “He’s had a lot of experience through our USMNT youth programs, he was part of our national team in a very young age, but at some point he just kinda fell off the radar. He's been waiting for an opportunity to play in the professional level, I don't feel like I'm taking a chance with him because I know exactly what I'm gonna get. That’s a guy that will do whatever we ask him to, he’ll play multiple positions and he’s capable of doing that at this level. The smile on his face when we told him that he was coming was worth it, let’s hope he continues to smile.”
Irvin Parra – Midfielder – 8/18/1993 (25 years old)
Began his professional career in Germany where he played for 3 clubs in 4 years, setting career highs with 6 goals and 30 appearances during the 2013-2014 season playing with Zweibrücken of the Regionalliga.
Returned to the United States in 2016, where he was a mid-season acquisition for USL side Sounders FC 2. In 2017 he became the first player in USL Championship history to record double-digit goals and assists in the same season. That year he played 20 matches with Seattle, in which he had 6 goals and 6 assists before mutually agreeing with the team to part ways to join Orange County SC for the final 2 months of the season, where he scored 5 goals and recorded 4 assists in 10 matches.
Eric Wynalda on Parra: “He’s a proven goal scorer, at every level he has been at he’s scored goals. He had a trip back to Germany, that’s where I kind of found some tape of his and I was able to track him a bit. He’d rather be here than Germany, we’re very lucky to have him because this is a guy that is really hungry, he wants to prove his worth and I expect him to score a lot this year.”
AlexNyarko Harlley – Midfielder – 6/28/1992 (26 years old)
Born in Togo, where he immediately fell in love with soccer, the only sport that is played in West Africa.
Moved to the United States when he was 18 years old. He went on to star in high school with Rosamond High School (California), winning a state title before moving on to the collegiate level, where he only played for one year in which he scored 22 goals and tallied 17 assists in 23 games for Yavapai College in Arizona.
Eric Wynalda scouted him and gave him an opportunity with Atlanta, where he signed his first pro contract when he was 21. He considers Eric as a mentor – father figure who sees something in him that nobody else saw in him before.
He played one season in the USL with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, his knowledge of the league has him excited of returning to it as he describes it as a “good and competitive league which keeps growing every year.”
He is expected to bring excitement, aggressiveness, speed and skill as a winger.
Eric Wynalda on Harlley: “Alex will really like playing in Las Vegas. His personality is infectious, his talent is many times misunderstood. He's been likened in a lot of occasions to someone like Mario Balotelli. Alex doesn't like to be likened to Mario but there are a lot of similarities there in the sense that he has tremendous talent and he’s not afraid to have a funny hair cut either. I think the fans will really gravitate to him, he's a great human being and I'm looking forward to manage him again.”
Lucas Scaglia – Midfielder – 5/6/1987 (31 years old)
One of the most experienced players to join USL, Scaglia brings experience to Lights FC as he has over a decade playing professional soccer in Europe, South America and the United States. His career is highlighted by winning the Colombian Superliga with Deportivo Cali (one of South America’s biggest clubs) where he scored 4 goals in 18 appearances.
A orignal product of the Newell’s Old Boys youth academy in his native country of Argentina, where he developed his craft alongside eventual soccer superstar Lionel Messi.
Eric Wynalda on Scaglia: “He is one of the veteran guys, he calms my midfield, he's incredibly steady. I think he just makes everyone around him better, he understands his role. His influence on the team is vital, because he’s a calming influence, you can give him the ball anywhere and he'll perform. He has an extremely high soccer IQ.”
Panzani Sousa – Midfielder – 5’5 – 12/25/1990 (28 years old)
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, Sousa moved to North Carolina at a young age where he ended up joining the Railhawks organization, winning with them the U23 national championship in 2011.
His performances caught the attention of French club FCM Aubervilliers, who signed him to a 2-year contract. He then made his return to the U.S., where he’d eventually join USL side Wilmington Hammerheads.
Eric Wynalda on Sousa: “This is a guy that played for me very briefly in Atlanta. Very versatile guy that can play in several positions. He’s incredibly talented, he has a lot of physical attributes that will help us in this league because it’s a tough league. He knows why he's coming here, he's looking for an opportunity and I think he will surprise a lot of people. He’ll certainly push the group, if he’s not starting, he’ll be wanting to start. If he is starting, he will perform.”