Las Vegas Lights FC’s chemistry grows as language barriers fall

Lights FC defender Marco Cesar Jaime Jr. attempts to watch the local news every night, even if he doesn’t always know what’s being said.

Jaime, a Spanish speaker, is one of many players on the team who moved to Las Vegas from Mexico without much experience in English. The news is one of his methods to pick up the language, and teammate Marcelo Alatorre has a similar strategy with reality TV.

Jaime Jr. and Alatorre are working on their English skills in part to bridge the language gap within the Lights. Many of their teammates are doing the same to create a more unified team this preseason.

“(The news) helps me a lot,” Jaime said. “I also have been watching some series on Netflix with (Spanish) subtitles.”

Lights practices are often conducted in two languages, with assistant coach Isidro Sanchez barking out drill instructions in English and then Spanish. Coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola usually switches between the two at training sessions, depending on who he is giving (sometimes loud) instructions.

Sola often wants things done a very specific way, which helped the Lights build camaraderie early in camp as bilingual members of the team relayed commands to teammates.

“It definitely took a little bit longer but it’s good,” midfielder Matt Thomas said of the team’s chemistry. “We’re looking good. We’re coming together every day.”

The next step for the Lights was keeping lines of communication open, not just in practice, but in scrimmages and preseason games. Translating for each other became harder when the team also had to keep an eye on the ball and opponents.

“When we’re playing, it’s three, four seconds to say ‘man on’ or ‘you’ve got time,’ ‘go right,’ ‘go left,’” defender Miguel Garduno, who is bilingual, said. “For (defender) Joel Huiqui, he doesn’t speak very good English, so he’s saying that in Spanish and sometimes (midfielder Daigo Kobayashi) doesn’t understand. (Huiqui will) say ‘Izquierda!’ and (Kobayashi) doesn’t move so I have to say ‘Koba left!’”

To help, Garduno and some of the team’s other Spanish speakers came up with a list of words and phrases for the English speakers to learn. And while the English speakers are learning those, Jaime and Alatorre can head back to their TVs and do their own homework.

“Everybody is doing their job,” Garduno said. “That’s making a good atmosphere for everybody. It’s good, I’m happy to be here. I know we’re going to have a very good season.”

Short week

The Lights kept their practice schedule light last week following three preseason home games against Major League Soccer teams. Now the team faces a short week with a preseason game at United Soccer League club Orange County SC on Friday morning.

“We’re working on high pressure,” Thomas said. “Making the defense cough the ball up.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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