Las Vegas Legends bring pro indoor soccer to the Orleans Arena
By Matt Kelemen
Photographs by Christopher DeVargas
Grooming by Sarah Barker
With nine days before their debut in an exhibition match against the Stars of Mexico, the Las Vegas Legends are practicing on their home field for the first time. Uzi and Franck Tayou, brothers and Las Vegas residents by way of Cameroon, are the last to step foot on the new turf at the Orleans Arena, with both brothers slapping the bottoms of their shoes one at a time before hitting the field to warm up. Most of the rest of the 20-plus members of the Legends already have their blood pumping, looking surprisingly cohesive considering their short existence as part of the Professional Arena Soccer League.
As goalie Kevin Geary explains later, the cohesiveness is due to soccer being a “universal language.” That language is spoken well by Legends president Meir Cohen, the owner of Summerlin Soccer Complex in Las Vegas. “This city deserves a professional team,” he said. “These guys are going to make sure the community will be proud of them.”
Last year, Cohen felt the time was right for a professional indoor soccer team to form in Las Vegas, and set the ball rolling when he recruited Greg Howes from the Milwaukee Wave of the Major Indoor Soccer League. With Howes—a three-time MVP during his tenure with the Wave and five-time league high-scorer, who started his career in the A-League with the Seattle Sounders—named as coach in July and Enrique Tovar signing as the Legends’ first player on Aug. 7, the PASL’s 15th franchise set about creating a team. The Legends boast top players from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Kosovo, as well as a handful of Vegas natives such as Geary. “It’s absolutely surreal,” said Geary of suddenly having the opportunity to play with the Legends. “It’s great for the community. Soccer has been growing in Las Vegas for a long time. I’m really excited, but to be honest I really didn’t see it coming.”
Playing hometown professional indoor soccer seemed to be out of reach six months ago to Geary and Vegas-based teammates Eric Guzman, Edgar Nava and Mitchell Jenkins. Cohen, who felt the tight-knit soccer scene in the Las Vegas Valley could only benefit from the addition of the Legends, held local tryouts near the end of August. By the time they face the Arizona Storm in the Legends’ Nov. 1 season opener, the months-old team will have been fully tested against an all-star team of Mexican ringers featuring Luis “El Matador” Hernandez.
With four 15-minute quarters and no off-sides calls, the game is played fast. The regular season includes eight home games at Orleans Arena and eight away games, with the final match away against the Anaheim Bolts on Feb. 17. With such a short history it’s almost surprising how mentally connected the Legends already look on the field, as if they had been together for at least a full season. “It doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you played,” Geary said. “If you’ve played at a high level and you’re playing good soccer, you’re all kind of on the same page.”