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Khano Smith savours first win as coach of Rhode Island

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Rhode Island FC celebrate historic win over USL Championship rivals Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night (Photograph courtesy of Rhode Island FC)

Rhode Island head coach Khano Smith hailed his club’s historic triumph over USL Championship rivals Las Vegas Lights as a “nice step in the right direction”.

The Eastern Conference side prevailed 2-1 away from home at Cashman Field on Saturday night after goals from defender Stephen Turnbull and forward Noah Fuson, with Valentin Noel replying for Las Vegas.

It was Rhode Island’s first win since joining the Championship at the beginning of the season under Smith’s leadership.

“It's definitely nice to tick that box but ultimately, we want a lot more,” Smith told The Royal Gazette.

“It's nice to get that one out of the way and nice to have that feeling.

“I am more happy for the players. They deserved it and have worked hard for me. I am more concerned about the performances and the growth of the team and club overall, but that was definitely a nice step in the right direction.

Rhode Island FC general manager and coach Khano Smith (File photograph supplied)

“We always believe we can win and confidence was always high. We know we've been competitive in most matches, so we just kept speaking to the players about how close they are to putting it all together and getting the results that we want and to just keep doing what we're doing and that eventually things will start going our way. Yesterday they did.”

Rhode Island’s win arrived at the end of a busy schedule and nearly a week on the road.

“There are no easy games any more and certainly not on the road,” Smith added.

“We were on the road for six days because we played a US Open Cup match in Charlotte and then went straight to Vegas, so it's been a long trip.”

Winless in their previous five league outings, former Major League Soccer player Turnbull got his first goal for the side to give Rhode Island the lead in the 25th minute after the capitalised on a counter-attack.

Things then got even better for Smith’s side when man of the match Fuson went from provider to goal scorer to double Rhode Island’s advantage in the 45th minute.

Frenchman Noël pulled one back for Las Vegas in the 54th minute when heading past Rhode Island’s Australian goalkeeper Jackson Lee at his near post and they came close to getting an equaliser when Dominican Republic forward Riki Alba’s header struck the near post, but Smith’s side ultimately held on to claim the points

Rhode Island are now eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, level on points with seventh-placed Loudoun United.

Former New England Revolution and Bermuda winger Smith was appointed as the club’s coach and general manager in March last year and is the only black coach among the 24 teams in the USL Championship.

“It's obviously an honour for me but I guess somewhat disappointing that we don't have more in any leagues really,” he said.

“So hopefully one day it's something that we no longer need to discuss because it's just normal having diverse coaches in the world.

“I am now part of a few organisations that are helping to push that along and, if I can be an inspiration to somebody, hopefully that's what I am here to do.

"I don't consider myself as a trailblazer. I have mentors and people that helped me, so if I can help somebody else or be a source an inspiration for somebody else, then I am more than happy to do that."

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Published April 21, 2024 at 5:43 pm (Updated April 21, 2024 at 5:44 pm)

Khano Smith savours first win as coach of Rhode Island

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