A booming voice carries across the fields of the Summerlin Soccer Complex: We have to do better! You’re being too predictable! Your first touch has to be better!
This isn’t your typical youth soccer coach instructing a bunch of 9-year-olds on a Saturday morning. Rather, it’s the voice of Victor “Boomer” Arbelaez Jr., the injured-but-inspirational center back for the Las Vegas Mobsters of the USL Premier Development League.
The PDL is a league for young amateur players to showcase their skills in the hope of making it big. Arbelaez is one of the exceptions: a 31-year-old former professional whose primary goal is to mentor his younger teammates. “I want to help them learn what it takes to make that next level,” he says, “and teach them the things I learned playing at the professional level.”
The Arbelaez family is Las Vegas soccer royalty. Boomer’s father was former Bishop Gorman High School soccer coach Victor Arbelaez, who guided the Gaels to 11 state championships. Arbelaez Sr. also played for the Las Vegas Quicksilvers of the North American Soccer League—scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over soccer superstar Pelé and the New York Cosmos in 1977, the Quicksilvers’ lone season before moving to San Diego.
The soccer gene passed on to Boomer, who starred for Gorman and UNLV. In 2005, he became first Rebels player to be drafted by Major League Soccer when the San Jose Earthquakes selected him with the 30th overall pick. However, his pro career barely lasted a year: In 2006, Boomer was going to leave MLS to play in South Africa, but instead returned to Las Vegas to spend time with his ailing father in what would be the final 10 months of Arbelaez Sr.’s life.
Back home, Boomer continued his education, receiving a clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Touro University. After earning his degree, however, he decided he wasn’t done with soccer. “I got an itch to play again at a high level,” he says. “It’s in my blood. It’s something I love to do.” As fate would have it, along came the Mobsters, who began play this year.
While Arbelaez hadn’t played professionally in about eight years, he quickly meshed with the younger Mobsters. His experience showed during a preseason scrimmage against the Arizona Sahuaros. During a one-on-one breakaway, he kept up with the opposing forward and wasn’t afraid to get physical with the younger player. He expertly delivered a shoulder bump that knocked his opponent off the ball and to the ground. A whistle blew for a foul, and the Sahuaros demanded a red card, but to no avail. It was a physical play, not a dirty one—just one example of Arbelaez showing his ability to stay one step ahead.
“Boomer was the anchor of our defense,” says Mobsters co-owner Geoffrey Hawkins. “He is full of instruction and is a true leader.”
Unfortunately for the Mobsters, leadership and instruction is all they’ll get from Arbelaez for the remainder of the season: He broke his right leg in a game May 24. But he’s determined to return to the Mobsters next year.
“This injury will definitely not end my career,” he says. “It’s tough watching from the sidelines, but I’ll just have to train hard and be prepared mentally after such a traumatic injury. I love the game too much to hang up my boots.”
The Mobsters return to UNLV’s Peter Johann Stadium at 7:30 p.m. June 22 against the Real Colorado Foxes. For tickets and additional information, visit LVMobsters.com.