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December 22, 2014

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Soccer:

New soccer team packs sports park

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Jummel Hidrosollo / Special to the Home News

Las Vegas Knights midfielder Fekade Gebretsadik attempts to keep the ball in possession during the season home opener at the Las Vegas Sports Park on Dec. 13 against the Arizona Heat.

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Las Vegas Knights goal keeper Zeke Sanchez clears the ball during the season home opener at the Las Vegas Sports Park on Dec. 13 against the Arizona Heat.

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Las Vegas Knights forward Itzik Rapaport keeps the ball away from the Arizona Heat defender during the season home opener at the Las Vegas Sports Park on Dec. 13.

The Las Vegas Knights indoor soccer team appears to be a hit in Southern Nevada.

Nearly 400 people packed the Las Vegas Sports Park in Summerlin on Dec. 13 to take in the Las Vegas Knights' season opener.

The Knights, a semiprofessional team playing in the Premier Arena Soccer League, began their third season with an 8-4 victory over the Arizona Heat. The team hopes to continue building support in preparation for hosting the league's championship in early March.

"I'm happy to see hundreds of people here," Knights owner and coach Meir Cohen said. "We need the support of our community.

"Because we're hosting the championship we want to build a great relationship with the community. This is just the first step."

Professionally printed programs, shirts with Knights logos and black and red balloons signifying the team's colors could be found throughout the sports park. In between the fast-paced game action, music was blasted on loud speakers as the home crowd was enthusiastic from start to finish.

"We did really well for an opener," captain Juan Romero said. "The few guys we have that are first-year players did really good. We all stepped up and played like a team. As long as we win all our home games, we can make the playoffs."

Romero was one of six players to score goals for the Knights. Forwards Derik Van Gessel and Emmanuel Kouhaiz each put in two goals, while Rene Abrego, Ryan Purtell and Luis Suarez also found the back of the net.

Goalkeeper Zeke Sanchez only allowed one goal in the first half before being pulled to give the team's backups experience.

The Knights hope to build as much momentum as possible early in the season to ensure they'll be playing in their own arena for the league championship.

"Hosting the championship definitely gives us extra motivation," defender Fekade Gebretsadik said. "It's our dream to play here for nationals and represent Las Vegas as best we can."

The Knights held tryouts in October where about 40 players from the Sports Park's adult leagues attempted to fill 20 roster spots. Of the 20 players, eight were born outside the United States.

"We had a good turnout for our tryouts so there was a good variety to choose from for the team," Van Gessel said. "We all play here so we know the field. This place is a big home field advantage for us."

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].

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