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September 22, 2021

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Homegrown soccer standout Danny Musovski living the dream in Las Vegas

Lights Shut Out Defiance in Home Opener

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas native Danny Musovski (16) chases the ball during the Las Vegas Lights FC home opener against the Tacoma Defiance at Cashman Field Saturday June 5, 2021. Musovski is playing with the Lights through a new partnership with the Los Angeles Football Club.

Danny Musovski has possibly the best Plan B in professional soccer.

He’s under contract with Los Angeles FC of Major League Soccer, but because he isn’t always in the squad’s matchday plans, frequently put on a bus for the four-plus-hour trek to Cashman Field to play with the club’s minor league affiliate Las Vegas Lights.

And that's no consolation, considering Musovski is a longtime Henderson resident whose rise to professional soccer started on the local pitch.

He’s one of the best players the area has ever produced, playing youth, high school, semi-professional, college and now professional soccer here. You can argue that he’s the poster child for the type of soccer the city is producing.

“My goal is obviously to be playing in the MLS, but it worked out kind of funny that our affiliate team is Las Vegas,” Musovski said. “So yeah, exactly, if I were going to be playing for a USL team, I think it’s nice to be able to play in front of your hometown in front of your family and friends.”

Anyone with a connection to Las Vegas soccer knows who Musovski is.

He played youth soccer with Las Vegas Academy, high school with Liberty and then starred at UNLV before turning pro. Born in Rochester, N.Y., but a Southern Nevadan since age 2, he rocketed his way through Las Vegas’ development programs, proving that a city not known nationwide as a soccer hotbed can still produce top-end talent.

Since a young age it was clear he was going places. His father, George, said that in Musovski’s first rec game as a 4-year-old, he scored 13 goals.

“So yeah, that probably was when I realized that we had a talent on hand,” George Musovski said.

It’s the perfect anecdote to kick off the career of a budding star. He helped his youth club, Las Vegas Sports Academy, to seven state titles. Then once he made it to high school, he etched himself into Las Vegas history.

As a junior in 2012, he led Southern Nevada with 43 goals, which set a state record at the time and now stands as the third-best total ever for a big-school player. In 2013, he one-upped himself, netting 58 goals, which still stands as the state record.

He won the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, a nationally recognized award, both his junior and senior seasons, and his 124 goals are the most in state history for the top division. He is, statistically, the most prolific goal-scorer in state history.

“There were times the score wasn’t very indicative because his senior year, even his junior year, he would score five goals in one half and I wouldn’t even let him play the second half,” then-Liberty coach Mike Eshragh said. “It got to times where I would just put him on defense and say, you cannot score because that’s not who we are. We’re a classy program and we’re not going to run up the score.”

Naturally, a dominant high school career gave Musovski plenty of options for what came next. After high school and into his freshman year at college he got his first taste of play, competing with the semi-pro Las Vegas Mobsters, a now-defunct team that played in the fifth-tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. That was just a taste of what was to come.

He was recruited by plenty of schools, but the university on Maryland Parkway was an allure too good to pass up. UNLV was a sub-.500 squad when Musovski arrived, but he helped the program turn around almost immediately.

He had one of the best freshman seasons in school history, helping UNLV reach the NCAA tournament as the Western Athletic Conference tournament MVP and a national player of the week honor during the tournament.

He was a second-team All-American and WAC offensive player of the year as a sophomore, and was again the WAC tournament MVP and picked up another national player of the week award as a junior. He capped his career with another conference player of the year honor as a senior.

“One of the things that separated Danny was his competitive spirit. Any game. If we were playing rock-paper-scissors, he was playing to win,” UNLV coach Rich Ryerson said. “I think that spirit and that drive and that determination I think is going to be what really propels him to that regular role in an MLS franchise.”

There was little doubt by that point that Musovski’s soccer career wasn’t ending at the amateur level. He was picked 30th overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and was sent on loan to USL Championship side Reno 1868 FC, where he scored his first professional goal against, who else, but the Las Vegas Lights.

He was released by San Jose after the year, but signed a permanent deal with Reno for the 2019 season, where he was terrific. He earned a return to an MLS contract with LAFC, this time making it to the big club. He debuted with LAFC last summer and finished the year with five goals in 15 league games, including a two-goal outing in October.

He returned to LAFC this season, with a twist. The organization announced an affiliation deal with the Lights for the season, meaning players signed to MLS contracts can be loaned to Las Vegas on a by-game basis — think MLB and Triple-A. Musovski will either play his games with the country’s top professional league or in front of his friends and family at home.

The affiliation is a win-win for everyone. It allows LAFC to get players some game action they wouldn’t otherwise receive, it allows those players to develop and it allows the Lights a chance to get MLS-level talent into their kit for a match.

Who Musovski is or where he’s from isn’t lost on the Lights. They have had a local player on their roster every year since their inception in 2018, and Musovski is exactly who the Lights want to feature. He’s living proof to anyone in Las Vegas that they don’t need to leave Southern Nevada to be seen, and can become an MLS player by playing their amateur career entirely in the valley.

“He’s the perfect profile of showing the Las Vegas soccer scene in how kids can have success here and go on and have a career in soccer,” Lights owner Brett Lashbrook said.

The Las Vegas representation in the professional ranks is not large. Musovski said he keeps in close touch with the other locals who have made it, including his LAFC teammate and Bishop Gorman grad Tristan Blackmon. Herculez Gomez is perhaps the best-known success story, playing at Las Vegas High and reaching the U.S. national team.

“Definitely Vegas soccer has helped turn me into the player that I am today, and without the youth coaches I had growing up I don’t think I would have reached the level that I have today,” Musovski said. “It’s a tight-knit community in Vegas soccer, we all know each other. What we all try to do is make Las Vegas proud and represent well because there’s only a few of us. We try to do our best representing Vegas.”

Few players have done it like Musovski, though. It’s rare in any city in any sport to get the chance to play at every level for your hometown. From the Las Vegas Sports Academy to Liberty to the Mobsters to UNLV and now to the Lights, Musovski has represented Las Vegas from youth to the pros.

So when he returns to Las Vegas, he takes up a big allocation of the Lights’ guest tickets. He scored five goals in his first dozen games with the Lights, the latest step in his progression through Las Vegas soccer.

He’s played, he’s scored, and he’s succeeded at every level the city has to offer. Not too many other players can say that.

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