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Lights’ Traore adds stability to shaky defense

It’s been a young, makeshift defensive line in front of Lights FC goalkeeper Alex Rando all season.

The 140 shots that the Lights defense has faced through 21 games is the most in the USL. Those numbers have led to Rando ranking second in the USL in saves this season (72).

It’s been a revolving door in front of Rando, but one constant has been the solid play from 19-year-old defender Mohamed Traore, who has been on loan from LAFC.

“The season has been going very good so far,” said Traore, who is expected to play tonight when the Lights play host to the Sacramento Republic. “I’ve played in a few games with the Lights, and it’s been good.”

Traore is in his second season with LAFC after signing with the club in August of 2020 as an 18-year-old. He’s made 15 appearances on loan with the Lights this season, starting in 14 of them.

“I’m happy to play with (the Lights) because it helps me get more rhythm and get more playing time,” he said. “It helps me get ready for the first team so it’s a good experience.”

Traore was born in Dakar, Senegal, where he spent most of his childhood.

He says growing up that soccer was a part of his life from an early age. He has made appearances with Senegal’s U-17 National Team and his performance back in his home country is what has given him the opportunity to come to the United States through former Senegalese soccer player Salif Diao’s foundation Sport 4 Charity.

“In Senegal, almost everyone plays soccer when they are young,” he said. “I started playing soccer at the age of five and at the age of 14 I got the opportunity to come to the U.S and finish my high school at Montverde Academy in Florida.”

Traore began attending Montverde in 2016 where he registered seven assists in his senior season and was named the team’s most improved player as a junior.

He mentioned that the biggest hurdle for him moving to a new country at such a young age was the language barrier, something he still struggles with to this day.

“It was not easy because when I first came here I didn’t know any words in English,” he said. “I had to work hard to (catch on) as quickly as possible. During training when the coach is speaking it’s hard to understand sometimes and in class, it was hard to understand what the teacher was saying.”

Traore’s performance this year with the Lights has led to three different team of the week honors, with his most recent coming in week 16 for his performance against Phoenix Rising FC. Against Phoenix, he won 10 of 14 duels and 4 of 5 aerial duels while also recording five interceptions, five clearances, and seven recoveries. He also scored in the 86th minute to help the Lights to a 2-2 draw.

“I was very happy,” Traore said when speaking about the honors. “That’s why you work hard, to get USL and MLS team of the week. So hopefully we can keep going.”

Traore has been in and out of the Lights lineup in recent weeks but figures to be back for Sunday’s match. Like most USL loanees, he said that splitting time between the two clubs wasn’t the easiest thing at first, however, he’s been able to hit his stride as the season has rolled on.

“It’s a good relationship but at the beginning, it wasn’t that easy,” he said. “But right now, we are all like a family and we understand each other more. Hopefully, we can get some more good results before the end of the year.”

Contact Aidan Subira at asubira@reviewjournal.com

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