This was what Meir Cohen envisioned when he brought professional indoor soccer back to Las Vegas two years ago.
Field an exciting team that scores lots of goals and wins.
While it’s early in the Professional Arena Soccer League season, the Las Vegas Legends are 5-0 and have the league’s top two goal-scorers. One of three undefeated teams in the 20-team PASL, the Legends lead the league with 58 goals.
For Cohen, the owner and coach of the Legends, things couldn’t be better.
“To be fair, I knew it was within our reach,” he said of the team’s rise to the top of their division with two months to play in the 2013-14 season. “We have talented players, and if we can continue to put our egos aside, we know we can play with the best.”
The Legends are back in town at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, facing the winless Sacramento Surge at the Las Vegas Sports Park, 1400 N. Rampart Blvd. On Dec. 15, the Legends host their chief rivals, the San Diego Sockers (2-2), at Orleans Arena. And while it would be convenient for the team to have one home venue and fans not have to keep track of where the team plays, Cohen isn’t discouraged.
“With The Orleans having so many dates full with hockey and other events, we can’t always get in there,” Cohen said. “But the Sports Park is a great venue. It’s intimate. You’re right up close to the action, and the people who’ve come out there have enjoyed themselves.”
Cohen has instituted an attack-first philosophy to help generate more interest. He knows fans love to see lots of goals, and the Legends have had no problem finding the back of the net.
“I’m a big believer in attacking,” Cohen said. “Sometimes it leaves you a bit vulnerable to being counter-attacked. But our goalkeeping has been good, and our defense has played well.
“I’m really pleased with our power play. We’ve worked hard on it, and we’re much more efficient in the way we’re executing.”
Having talented players such as Enrique Tovar and Ivan Campos helps keep a team’s power play humming along with generating offense while at even strength. Tovar leads the PASL with nine goals and 24 points, and Campos’ 19 points include a team-best 10 goals. Felipe Gonzalez is tied for fourth in league scoring with 16 points.
“I think we’re right where we’re supposed to be,” Tovar said. “We haven’t played our best yet. We’re still learning each other, and we’ve got a couple of guys hurt. But we’ve got a lot of talent, and they guys are working hard.”
Tovar, the team’s captain, is trying to set a good example. A vocal leader, he’s also the first on the field at practice and the last to leave, according to Cohen.
“He’s what you want in a leader,” Cohen said.
Tovar knows his early-season success likely will warrant more attention from opposing defenses in the weeks ahead. But he knows that guile can be an effective weapon in eluding the defense.
“I’ve been fortunate so far in that we have other guys like Campos who can score,” Tovar said. “But I’m taking advantage of my chances, and for me, my game is about playing smart, being able to read the game and be in the proper position to make a play. I’m always thinking four or five steps ahead. I’m not the fastest guy out there, but I’m smart enough to know where to go and take advantage of the space the defense gives me.”
Returning home for the first time in three weeks should give the Legends a good opportunity to increase their lead in the PASL Pacific Division, where they have a 2½-game lead over San Diego, Ontario and Turlock, all based in California, and Mexico, based in Tijuana. Cohen said it’s also the time to start growing the team’s fan base.
“It’s hard to get the people’s attention in this town because Las Vegas has so many things going on,” Cohen said. “But we have an exciting team, and I think once people come out and watch us, they’ll come back.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.