In its one year as a professional franchise, USL's Las Vegas Lights FC has done plenty to garner attention, and it's struck again as it prepares for its sophomore season.
The club has hired former U.S. men's national team great Eric Wynalda as its manager and technical director, it announced Wednesday, replacing ousted manager Isidro Sanchez and departed technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola (casually known as Chelis) after the club went 8-19-7 and missed the USL playoffs by a significant margin.
In his post-playing career, Wynalda served as a media pundit for ESPN, Fox and Sirius XM and famously coached amateur side Cal FC to the U.S. Open Cup round of 16, in addition to finding success in the NASL with the Atlanta Silverbacks. He also ran for U.S. Soccer president last winter on a platform that strongly questioned the federation and its status quo. He takes charge of the club just days after its inaugural season completed.
“Lights FC has big aspirations. And today’s announcement further signifies our commitment to create a professional soccer club that aspires to both make Las Vegas proud while becoming the next great American soccer success story,” Las Vegas Lights FC owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook said in a statement. “We are incredibly thankful for the community’s support in our inaugural season, but our expectations in year two must be raised higher. Eric joining Lights FC is a testament to the type of club we’ve built in year one.”
Lights FC has been nothing if not bold in its brief existence. It partnered with a marijuana dispensary in April, becoming the first professional franchise to do so. It signed the likes of Freddy Adu and former No. 1 overall MLS SuperDraft pick Omar Salgado in addition to a number of ex-MLS players, and during a home game at Cashman Field it famously dropped $5,000 from a helicopter for fans to scoop up.
With Wynalda, a National Soccer Hall of Fame forward who lived in Las Vegas for a number of years after his playing career ended, at the helm, its hope is that the results match the non-game-related exploits as the new, rebranded USL takes off in 2019.