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Las Vegas Lights enter third season with high hopes

Updated March 4, 2020 - 3:27 pm

The Lights FC kicks off its third United Soccer League season in a nationally televised game on Saturday against Landon Donovan and expansion franchise San Diego Loyal SC. The Lights will host the Sacramento Republic FC in its home opener on March 14.

In year one under coach Eric Wynalda, the Lights finished last season 13th in the Western Conference at 11-15-8. It was an improvement from 2018’s inaugural season, but they still finished shy of a playoff berth.

“We’ll find out how talented we are in a hurry,” Wynalda said. “I think we’ve built a squad that can be very dangerous.”

Since the season finale, the Lights have made significant roster changes, adding nine players including center back Ramon Martin Del Campo and defender Jordan Murrell. On February 28, the team terminated midfielder Edwin Rivas’ contract and signed defender Johnny Fenwick and midfielder Jose Carrera.

“When we looked at last year and where our deficiencies were, we needed a little bit more experience in the back. Fenwick is a guy we felt plugged up that hole a little bit better,” said Wynalda, “and (Carrera) is just a brilliant little soccer player. He just connects the dots for us.”

Wynalda has spoken highly of each roster addition, and the players have welcomed them to the team with open arms. The time spent creating chemistry together off the field could prove beneficial.

“Everyone has each other’s back,” said Wynalda. “That comes from them. … When the game gets hard and people make mistakes, you can have one of two reactions to it. I really like the way they have reacted to adversity so far.”

While the Lights are looking forward to seeing how they perform in the first few games, the ambitious group does not view a franchise-first playoff berth as the mark of a successful season.

“These guys want to be in the top three in this league. We don’t go into venues and hope to get out with a tie,” Wynalda said. “(The players) want to win now, they want to win all the time. My job will be to stay the hell out of their way.”

Contact Le’Andre Fox at lfox@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DreFox_ on Twitter.

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