weather icon Clear

Thomas Olsen settles in as Las Vegas Lights goalkeeper

Lights FC goalkeeper Thomas Knute Olsen is known as TKO — technical knockout — on the pitch. He is reckless in sacrificing his body to make a save.

Off the pitch, he is far from the acronym. The second-year keeper is a family guy — and he has a massive extended family.

The humble Olsen says he has 26 cousins — and that’s on his mom’s side.

At one time, the 6-foot-3-inch goalkeeper had nine cousins attending Bishop Gorman High School with him during his sophomore year, so he’s used to proving himself in a competitive household, scrapping his way to the top.

He’s expected to be in goal Saturday when the Lights visit Reno 1868 FC for a United Soccer League match that doubles as the Nevada State Cup.

Olsen’s grandfather is the late Gerald Higgins, who was UNLV’s team doctor for 40 years and is a member of the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame and Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. Olsen said Higgins is one of his heroes.

“He was just a great guy,” said Olsen, 24. “Everyone loved him. Very humble. … I really learned how to treat people right from him.”

Gorman guy

Olsen always knew he was destined to be a Gael.

His mother graduated from Gorman, and nine of her siblings attended the school. Olsen earned Nevada goalkeeper of the year and first-team all-state honors as a senior in the 2012 season.

Gorman coach Doug Borgel described him as “always smiling” and the “prototypical goalkeeper.”

The capstone to Olsen’s senior year was a game-winning block in which he tipped the ball over the crossbar in the final 30 seconds of the state final, giving the Gaels their first team title since 2007.

From San Diego back to Las Vegas

Olsen turned down an offer from UNLV and was recruited by several West Coast Conference schools. He decided to walk on at the University of San Diego, where he was named the West Coast Conference’s freshman of the year and selected to the All-WCC team three times.

“I think once he came back from his National Team call-up, I realized he had a real legitimate chance of getting drafted (by Major League Soccer),” San Diego goalkeeping coach Anthony Meza said.

Olsen was selected in the third round in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft by the Colorado Rapids.

But the Rapids released Olsen after two months, and he bounced around the USL last season, landing in New York, Portland, Kansas City and eventually Las Vegas, where he signed four games into the season.

Olsen didn’t get along with former coach Isidro Sanchez and was sitting on the bench. He was loaned to the Sacramento Republic for four months.

He came back to the Lights under first-year coach and former World Cup player Eric Wynalda, who made Olsen the starter. Since then, he has six shutouts.

“The confidence right off the bat was a game-changer for me,” said Olsen, who later added: “There’s no player, unless they’re crazy, who isn’t going to listen to this guy.”

Jonathan Eskin covers the Lights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at jeskin@reviewjournal.com

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Lights FC win over Rio Grande Valley FC

Top scorer Irvin Raul Parra went into a three-way tie for most goals in Lights history as the Lights FC won 2-1 over Rio Grande Valley FC and extended their road losing streak to five games in a United Soccer League match Saturday in front of 8,818 at Cashman Field.

Tacoma ends winless skid, beats Las Vegas Lights

Substitute Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez scored twice in the second half to help the Tacoma Defiance end a 14-match winless streak with a 4-1 victory over the Lights FC in a United Soccer League match Wednesday in Tacoma, Washington.

Las Vegas officials to attend MLS All-Star Week

MLS announced Monday that officials from as Vegas, Charlotte, Sacramento, St. Louis and “other potential expansion markets” will attend its All-Star Week as the league attempts to expand from 27 teams to 30.