When Bryce Duke scored in the 74th minute of the Las Vegas Lights home opener in early June, not only did he seal the club’s first win of the season, but it also marked the 20-year-old’s first goal of his professional career.
Already leading the Tacoma Defiance 1-0, Duke said his goal “was a big step forward and another confidence booster. But from a team standpoint, me scoring that second goal put the game away.”
Duke, who was committed to play at Wake Forrest, is in his second season with LAFC after spurning the college route and signing with the club in January of 2020. He made 11 appearances last season for LAFC and has been a regular in the Lights’ starting lineup early on this year. and a mark that is even more impressive when you consider that he has missed the Lights’ last two games.
“I’m an attacking player, especially with the 4-2-3-1 formation that the Lights play,” Duke said. “Being able to play that attacking midfielder role really helped the team and myself.”
Dukes’ performance earned a spot on the USL team of the week for Week Seven. However, he said he was caught off guard by the recognition and feels that he did not truly earn the accolade.
“I made team of the week (as a bench player), so personally I don’t really count it,” he said. “I found out when the Lights posted it. I thought they made a mistake, so I texted them saying I don’t think I made it. I was just happy to help the team with the result.”
Lights fans have not seen Duke in the lineup since mid-June when the club took down LA Galaxy II 4-3. He has been called up to the first team with LAFC, suiting up for the club’s last three games, making two appearances.
Which club Duke suits up for on a given week changes given the circumstances. Bu he spends most of his training time with the LAFC and knows that’s where he wants to be.
“Usually I figure out (who I’ll be playing for) during the training week,” he said. “I train with the first team throughout the whole week and then just travel with the Lights or train with them the last day. But I’m just trying to make my way into the first team and get more minutes with them.”
Duke has been strictly with LAFC since the Galaxy game on June 16th and says that there is a noticeable difference between the level of competition in both leagues. He highlighted the faster pace of play and increased physicality as the main differences he sees between the USL and MSL.
“In the MLS they play very fast, so you always have to be ready and know exactly what you’re going to do … guys are a lot more experienced than in the USL,” he said. “I felt more comfortable in the USL because you have a few extra seconds to figure out what you’re going to do.”
Duke also noted that his time with the Lights this season has helped to prepare him for his time in the MLS with LAFC. He said it’s always good to get game minutes regardless of who it’s with.
This week he is not expected to suit up for the Lights and instead will be with LAFC on Saturday when they take on Real Salt Lake in a road matchup.
Duke is unsure when Lights fans will see him back on the pitch for their club. He hoping to become a regular in the LAFC lineup as the season rolls on.
“I want to keep building my confidence and earn more minutes with (LAFC),” he said. “Hopefully, I can start a few games for them, but I’m kind of just taking it one step at a time and working on the small things that my coaches have been telling me.”
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Who: Lights FC vs. Tacoma Defiance
What: USL Western Conference Pacific matchup
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Cashman Field
Promotion: Postgame fireworks show
Lights FC outlook (2-6-1): The Lights come into the game after a 2-1 loss to the San Diego Loyal last weekend. The last time they saw the Defiance was back in early June when they beat them 2-0 in their home opener. Keep an eye out for goalkeeper Alex Rando in this matchup. Last week the Loyal were able to put a lot of pressure on the Lights defense, but Rando was able to keep them in striking distance in the second half with some acrobatic diving saves. It has also been announced that Danny Musovski will be back on loan from LAFC as well.
Defiance outlook (3-3-2): Tacoma sits in fifth place in the USL Western Conference Pacific and are coming off a 2-0 win over LA Galaxy II last weekend. They will look to improve in this second matchup of the season with the Lights after looking like they completely lacked continuity in the first meeting. Ray Serrano is a name to keep an eye on. He scored his only two goals of the season last week in the second half to seal the win for the Defiance.