Former Golden Eagle goalkeeper makes lifelong dream a reality

Angel Alvarez of Laramie County Community College in action against Western Iowa Community College on Sept. 3. Michael Smith/LCCC

Former Laramie County Community College soccer player Angel Alvarez hopes to become a  hometown hero as a professional soccer player.

Alvarez played for the Golden Eagles in 2017 after transfering from Lakeland Community College in Ohio, where he played as a freshman. He started 12 games for the Golden Eagles and had 78 saves with one shutout.

It was men’s head coach Vince Gibson’s continued interest in Alvarez that finally led him to playing for the Golden Eagles.

“Coach Gibson has followed me since my senior year in high school, so LCCC was always an option for me,” Alvarez said. “For whatever reason I decided to go to Ohio my first year and then for my sophomore year I wanted to try something new. Coach Gibson was still giving me the opportunity and the program had been successful for the last few seasons, and on top of that there was a few Las Vegas guys that I was close with and they made my decision easier.”

After the fall semester was over Alvarez went back to his hometown of Las Vegas for the holidays when he got the opportunity to try out for the United Soccer League team Las Vegas Lights FC.

“I came home for winter break and I was given the opportunity to try out for the team and I didn’t think about it twice,” Alvarez said.

After trying out for the Lights, Alvarez was signed to the spring training roster for the team and would be on the roster for two exhibition games against Major League Soccer teams, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and D.C. United.

Not only had Alvarez made his dream come true of becoming a professional soccer player, he was going to be playing for his hometown team in Las Vegas.

“It’s a dream come true,” Alvarez said. “My dream was to always become a professional soccer player and for me growing up there was no professional soccer team here in Las Vegas, so the last place I expected to become a professional soccer player was here in my hometown.”

The Lights are part of the United Soccer League, a division II professional league in the United States. The only more prestigious soccer league in America is the Major League Soccer league. The Lights were founded in August 2017 and will play its first season in 2018.

“Now that we finally have a professional team it’s hard for me to believe that I’m part of the first professional team in the history of Las Vegas and it’s definitely a bonus,” Alvarez said. “I was already motivated but it even motivates me more knowing that I have my family here, that I have my friends here and that they attend the stadium to watch me. It’s just an extra motivation for me to keep going.”

Alvarez’s time at LCCC with Gibson and goalkeeper coach Kay Olivas helped him prepare for the big step up from junior college to professional soccer.

“All the trainings and practices ran by coach Gibson were always professional like,” Alvarez said. “It was always in a serious manner and everybody respected him and everyone enjoyed going out to practice. Coach K (Olivas) was a big part of my success as of today. She made sure I kept in shape and form.”

Olivas said she knew when Alvarez stepped on campus that he had aspirations to play professionally, but she said she just wanted Alvarez to be the best he could be for LCCC and let the future come as it may.

“For him (Alvarez) I knew it was a drive for him and I knew it was something he wanted to do,” Olivas said. “My job was just to help him get there and to help him be the best he possibly could be for LCCC and the future, whatever was in store for him.”

Olivas also made an impact on Alvarez’s life outside of helping him become a professional goalkeeper.

“She was more than a coach to me when I was there,” Alvarez said. “She was more like a mentor for me. She was someone I really admired and I really appreciated everything she did while I was there.”

After working with Alvarez over the past year, Olivas said she was happy and excited to see him turn pro.

“It’s just awesome to see his dream come true and I was really happy to hear,” Olivas said. “He texted me to tell me it was happening and I was super excited for him because as a goalkeeper coach you get to watch these kids go through so much. Especially it being such a tough position and to see that kind of outcome for him is just great experience. I’m very happy for him.”

The Lights wasted no time in seeing what Alvarez was capable of. He started in his first game, an exhibition game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“It was a little nerve racking at the beginning,” Alvarez said. “Starting for a professional team is something different. All the people in the stands, you see people cheering your name. After I had my first few saves I heard people from the back cheering my name and it’s just so crazy. I felt goosebumps, I felt really excited and very motivated to know that I am finally living my dream being a professional soccer player. There is just no words to describe it, I was just really excited.”

In his first professional start Alvarez and the Lights lost a close one 3-2. Alvarez knows that there will be some bumps in the process but looks forward to the challenge ahead.

“Like all kids I have big dreams of ending up playing in Europe, but I have to take it step by step and I have to show what I can do in this league,” Alvarez said. “Hopefully I do well this year and if not next year and sometime in the near future get picked up by an MLS team. Anything can happen once you’re in the first division of your country. You get exposed to other teams and that’s what I am hoping for.”

For Alvarez his dream has already taken one step forward. After starting against the Whitecaps Alvarez signed a contract guaranteeing him a roster spot on the 2018 Lights.

“It does feel very relieving to know now that I have my spot on the team,” Alvarez said. “Now the only thing to do is fight for the starting sport. You know now that Coach Chelis (Jose Luis Sanchez Sola) has given me the opportunity to be part of the team I want to fight and show him that I can be the starting goalkeeper.”


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