The most wild ride in my soccer career (so far)
It started on Facebook (where all good stories begin) in late 2017. I had just arrived back to my hometown Ottawa, Canada after playing overseas in Portugal. When scrolling through my feed, I found a post that had a picture of an acquaintance posing with the owner and coach of a new club in downtown Las Vegas. I was immediately enthralled by the idea of playing for a brand new USL team in such a cool looking city. I commented “you guys looking for a right back or what?” and the rest was history…
… That I’ll explain right now 😉
TL;DR A recap of my time in LV + Thanks to everyone for the memories. 💙
There was a 2-day open-trial weekend that lead to a 3-day invitational trial. If you did well on Day 1, you'd be invited to Day 2. If you were selected on Day 2, you’d be allowed to join the next three days of training with pre-selected players who were already invited by the coaching staff. It turns out I had to join the squad the old fashioned way, starting with proving my worth in the open trials. I knew they were looking primarily for local talent which started as a cool initiative by the club that guaranteed a spot on the team to a local player. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn't a local. I was ready to take on all of the 700+ hopefuls who had signed up for their shot at a pro contract so I booked my own flight (one-way) and an Airbnb (with a quirky cat lady). 😸
- Funny enough, when I went to the soccer complex the day before the tryouts, I ended up finding an abandoned dog who I later adopted, but that’s another crazy Vegas story for another time. -
I showed up the first day in the first group of the day, I ended up being the first name called from the list of players who made it through to the second day of trials. WooHoo, got a free t-shirt! To be honest, there were a lot of amateur players there who weren’t anywhere near professional quality, so it was no surprise that I made the cut. To be even more honest, some of the fine folks I had talked to there had told me some (Vegas) things like, “I quit drinking last week and now I’m ready,” and “I don’t know why I didn’t make it,” while walking to his car smoking a cigarette. 🤦♂️
Day 2 was more pleasurable due to the ~100 players who were of better quality. After playing a small-sided game like a boss, A handful of great players were chosen. I FINALLY got that invitation to the 3-day. I even got upgraded from my airbnb to a snazzy hotel room just off the strip with players from all over. #swanky 💁♂️
Day 3-5: These three days went by quickly, lots of training with the coaching staff to see if we fit into their system/style of play. On the last day, we brought it all together in an 11v11 scrimmage full field. I honestly don’t even remember how I did (maybe it was all a blur because I was so deeply focused? Haha). All I know is that I ended up being selected with a portion of players to come to preseason and fight for a spot on the starting 11. So I was able to enjoy my Christmas holidays back at home with family, but come January, It was all Viva Las Vegas. 🎰🎰🎰
Getting set up in Vegas was a cinch. I’ve moved from Germany to Australia to Portugal to some other awesome places, so I was settled pretty quickly. I arrived to Vegas with my partner, Chany, and although our apartment had a fireplace that I didn’t quite understand, it was a perfect accommodation with all the amenities we needed. 🏠
The team ate, trained, worked out, and went to sleep over and over again, not always in that order! It was a fun time of getting to know my (predominately Mexican) teammates and fun figuring out that my 2 credits of Spanish lessons in college were holding up about as well as you’d think. (🌮 el taco es bueno... see what I mean?)
It was great meeting the likes of (former wonderkid) Freddy Adu, Mexican National team player Joel Huiqui, and Daigo Kobayashi. They've all been so kind and supportive as teammates, so I owe them a shout out. Thanks guys! 🙏
We were fortunate to have three preseason games lined up against MLS teams and I was selected to play against Montreal Impact in the first ever match for Las Vegas Lights Football Club, in front of a sold out stadium (more on the fans soon) in downtown Las Vegas. I'm super grateful be a part of that history for the city of Las Vegas! (More on games below)
I loved being integrated into the Las Vegas community. It really has been special getting to know all about this quirky city beyond the stereotypical Strip and Casino lifestyle that I once misjudged from afar. #sorry
The community itself has been so welcoming and supportive to both the team and myself. They are passionate and really love the game of soccer. I could see why Brett kept saying that this was a soccer city. Come to a home match and you’ll find out. It’s a crazy Vegas party behind the goal. The supporters know how to hold it down (Shout out to the Electric Co. + Luz e fuerza!). 🎉🎉🎉
Outside of the stadium I think I’ve lead the team in the stat of “most events attended” (on field I believe I hold the “most interceptions per minute played” stat). Both are great stats, but my heart says the former is more important. I love the community so much that I’ve openly volunteered to attend as many events as I’m able to. Here are a few of my favs:
The team shorts reveal at the Plaza hotel was a priceless way to kickstart the season. Pealing off a robe on stage with traditional Showgirls on one side and the Mayor of the City on the other was a true Vegas experience. And yes, you heard me right, we had a shorts reveal before our jersey reveal. Has anyone done that before? Don’t think so.
Throughout the rest of preseason we held two jersey reveals, the first was at Zappos HQ in a packed theatre. This is where we unveiled the flashy home kit from top to bottom. The greatest highlight from the kit, another first for Vegas, was the smiley face emoji located on the inside of the shirt. A great way to celebrate goals and challenge the Man at the same time. It’s an automatic yellow for over-celebrating, which doesn’t seem to bother the club. We also got a brief chance to connect with season ticket holders which felt amazing to see the faces of those who would be there to have our backs and cheer us on all season long.
Our away kit reveal was a more intimate setting. Players were hanging out and interacting with the fans. It was great! Two players got body painted jerseys, I got a matching (temp.) tattoo with a fan, and we all grew another step closer as a team and community. By this point I was already in love with the city and the people in it. The locals were so warm and friendly, which was nothing like the thoughts I had about the city. That’s what you get when you stop assuming and start to open up and talk to new people, you tend to learn how things actually are!
One of my favorite meet-and-greets was visiting over a hundred young Las Vegas Soccer Association players that were training. I had a few moments to speak to a group and I got inspirational on them! (To check that out click here!) The kids were great and very receptive. Many wanted to get scholarships or go pro one day, and knowing there’s a pro team in their city makes me really happy because it gives them something tangible to strive for. That can really be the difference in a kids journey to professional soccer. When I was a kid, there was no pro soccer in my city, no real pathway and I bet that’s the cause for a lot of players giving up. I truly hope these kids can hold on to their dreams and I’m grateful to be a part of that new spark (or more fitting, “light”) that just might ignite the desire in the future generation of pros in this city.
Vegas also has a sweet event called First Friday where local artists, musicians, you name it, meet up in the Arts District to have a fun night of events, showcases, and shenanigans. The Lights had their own stand there and so I’d volunteer to go to as many as possible. I think I hit 5 months in a row (February to June!) and was able to meet locals, prospective fans, and lots of kids. Admittedly, it was also my day of the month to get in a good “cheat” meal for dinner and I LOVED one food truck in particular called Monti’s Smokehouse BBQ. Their pulled pork was my go to, but it was really the people who ran the biz who were just such an authentic representation of kind-spirited Las Vegas locals that really brought me back. (Shout out to Kelsie and Ryan of Monti’s + everyone I got to hang out with and meet)
I even got a taste of the fun local Mexican community by heading to the swap meet at Broadacres Marketplace to promote the team! They know how to get down with their banda music! I felt really good about connecting with a completely different culture especially knowing that our team would be represented by a primarily hispanic team and supported by hispanic soccer fans in the city as well. It was nice building the hype for the season while taking pictures and signing autographs for the line up of cool people.
It was touching to spend time visiting the children’s hospital with the team. We all had a really sense of quiet calmness after interacting with and visiting a ton of kids who could use a pick me up. I think our visit was really appreciated and welcomed. We also gave out a ton of toys, Lights FC goodies, and autographed photos, it was a small gesture to let patients and families know we cared.
I’m pretty sure the experience gave us all perspective on what we were put on this earth for. It made me want to do more to use my platform as a professional athlete to not only help young players improve in soccer, but to inspire change so that we can all connect and spread love. No photos here, but it was also sweet getting to wear clown noses with everyone on the team.🤡It was a fun + humbling experience to say the least.
The team photoshoot was also a great time. It was unlike the traditional photoshoots of the previous teams I've played on. We got to attend the neon lights boneyard that features old signs from casinos and other businesses and we took a photo that really showed the motto of "we do things differently." with an amazing backdrop, scattered players posing in different ways,..
And yes, the team llamas Dolly and Dotty. 🦒🦒(<- giraffe emoji... Can someone please contact apple and get a llama one made ASAP. Thanks.)
Other than that, I can't forget the Harley Davidson sponsorship event! I got to introduce Cash the Soccer Rocker with a couple teammates. That was a rockin' experience. Cash is our team mascot. He's a "Hispanic Elvis Presley with a little Johnny Cash" who rides into games on a motorcycle.
I also think this was my first encounter with fans (and future friends) Ricky and his son Xavier, so a big shout out to them! (Photo below!)
I got the honor of being in a Findlay Toyota/John Barr Commercial that ended up airing during Lights FC halftime breaks as well as on TV during World Cup games (So technically I was a part of the world cup... technically). I was both a stunt double for John's fancy footwork and also make a cameo as the teammate who crosses John the ball to score his epic bicycle kick. John is an awesome dude, and his team at Findlay Toyota is great, so shoutouts to them as well! It was a top 10 Vegas experience for sure, even though I had to cross the ball a bazillion times with a bruised foot a day before my game. #soccerprobz
I haven't seen the commercial posted online anywhere so if you find it, share it in the comment section below! All I have is this snapshot below!
I also have to give a shoutout to Ben Gotz at LVRJ (interview here), Helen Yee of LVSportsNetwork (one short interview here), Steph & Melissa from GirlChatSports (Podcast here) and all other media peeps for the fun talks! It was also cool meeting Ethan/Tazia of NuWu Cannabis Marketplace (the first ever dispensary sponsor for a pro soccer team). Shoutouts on shoutouts to all!
Okay okay, last shoutouts, I swear!
Big thanks to all the Lights people for the good times! Front Office + everyone else (Ryan, Maddie, Rachel, Andrea, Luis) + Thanks for been such awesome people along the way!
Thank you to the owner + coaches for everything you've done to support my football journey. The time and effort you put into the club is really admirable. I sincerely appreciate the good experiences I've gained under your management.
If you ever need something, please don't be afraid to reach out.
It's been a season of firsts, so I wanted to highlight a few from games:
As I mentioned, I played against MLS side Montreal Impact in the first ever (pre-season) match for Las Vegas Lights in front of a sold out Las Vegas stadium. 🏟
I played my first full 90 minutes in my first professional game in the USL. It was the first win in team history, we won 3-2 (!!) and we scored the fastest goal in league history for an expansion team. (My proud dad likes to let people know that I stole the ball from the opponent and started the play for the first goal. 🤓 Lol)
I played in the first ever home home season match which was also the first Silver State Cup match vs. Reno 1868 FC, we tied 1-1. (My proud mom came down and watched the game with my aunt which was awesome!)
I also started for the teams first ever US Open Cup match vs. FC Tuscan, which resulted in a 4-2 win! This was also the teams first win with us scoring 3 or more goals, which meant the players on the field got a $100 poker chip from Plaza Hotel. (Since I don't gamble, I used it on food. :)
That's a pretty full recap of my positive experiences in Las Vegas. (Did I miss anything?) Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed living it!
Thanks to all,
p.s. Special shoutout to my family, to Robert my first friend in LV, to my social media supporters, to my sponsors, to L.E. the team photographer for the majority of these shots, and to future pro footballer Gio + his family for their support. Love you guys!
I love helping players optimize their soccer careers + lives through actualizing their potential.