Former Rocky Mountain College student athlete, Matt Thomas, was offered a pre-season contract with the professional soccer club Las Vegas Lights F.C. The soccer club plays in the United Soccer League (USL), the second division of professional soccer in the United States while the first division is the Major League Soccer (MLS).
Thomas began his career at RMC in 2014 and has been an important player for the men’s program since. A 22 year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, Thomas played mostly as an attacking midfielder for RMC. The Cascade Conference awarded Thomas with honorable mentions for the 2015 and 2016 seasons and he was part of the All-Conference team for the 2017 season.
“It was always in the back of my head,” said Thomas. “Playing professional soccer is what I wanted to do.”
Since his freshman year, Thomas was a regular starter for the men’s soccer program. For four years, his left foot brought creativity to the RMC midfield and his tenacity in the pitch motivated his teammates.
RMC head coach Richard Duffy, who recruited Thomas at the end of his senior year of high school, received a call from him last December. Thomas had informed Duffy about the professional club’s interest in him as a player.
“What stood out the first time I watched him was his talent as a player,” said Duffy. “He is good on the ball and he is left footed, which gives you something different.”
The pre-season contract Thomas signed began in January and will end in March. The individual performance of Thomas and how well he adapts to the league will determine if he is offered a permanent contract. The club guarantees that one local Las Vegas player will receive a permanent contract. Currently, there are five Las Vegas players in the club’s roster.
“My advice for him was go chase your dreams,” said Duffy. “Go play professional soccer and if it works out great. If not, you can always come back because you have a home at Rocky Mountain College.”
Las Vegas F.C. will face the MLS team, D.C United, on Saturday, Feb. 24. The club will have an opportunity to play against teams that are part of the most competitive soccer league in the country.
“It is a great chance to play against very high level teams in preseason,” said Duffy.
Thomas is not only a talented player, but also a hard worker on the field. Midfield positions in soccer demand that players master defensive as well as offensive skills.
“He developed over the four years and got better every year,” said Duffy. “Providing him with the ability to train full-time in our program not only during the season but offseason, lifting weights and putting some muscle on him, I think that prepared him for the next level.”
According to Duffy, Thomas is the kind of player you want in a soccer program because he doesn’t cause any trouble, he gets along with everyone, and he puts the right things in his body.
“With a player like that you get consistency,” said Duffy. “Practice or games you are going to get the same work rate. The fact that in an open tryout he proved to the head coach that he deserves a spot in the preseason roster says something about the kind of player he is.”
Thomas hopes to make his first appearance with the club in February. During his teenage years, Thomas also spent time with Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake as a member of its youth academy residency program based in Arizona. The program has developed multiple current MLS players.
“I like to think that I don’t stop running,” Thomas said. “I’m a workhorse. I like outrunning players, playing a straightforward game.”
Duffy said Thomas would make an exceptional left back at the professional level because of his ability to go up and down the field for the entire 90 minutes.
“We didn’t have the luxury to play him as a left back,” said Duffy. “We needed him in the middle of the field providing assists and scoring goals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at that professional level he develops into an attacking left back.”
Founded by Las Vegas resident Brett Lashbrook and his family, Las Vegas F.C was formed with the goal of bringing professional soccer to Southern Nevada.
Thomas hopes to get an opportunity in the starting squad and develop his career as a professional footballer. If he returns to RMC to finish his degree in the future, he would also join the RMC coaching staff.
“Looking forward to making my debut in front of my hometown,” Thomas said.