Las Vegas, NV – After playing two consecutive road games, Lights FC will finally have the advantage of playing on their pitch as they return home to face Real Monarchs SLC on Salute to the Vegas Golden Knights night at Cashman Field.
“It’s going to be good to be home,'' said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "There’s a little bit of pressure now, but as long as we execute we should be okay. I think the group is a little rattled, the results haven’t gone our way, but being at home makes a huge difference for our mindset".
Las Vegas leads the league with a total of 52 shots taken in the first 3 weeks of the 2019 season. “We’re going to continue with the same inertia and intention to seek for the goal,'' said Lights FC midfielder Cristhian 'Tripa' Hernandez, who is tied for fifth place in the USL Championship's Western Conference with a total of 8 shots. "We’re going to continue trying until we get it, because we know we have the quality to get those goals."
Both goals scored by Las Vegas in the 2019 USL Championship season have come off of set pieces, first with a Pablo Cruz corner kick that was sent to the back of the net with a vicious header by Javan Torre in Oklahoma City and afterwards with a free kick executed by Cristhian Hernandez that Gabe Robinson struck head first. “Being my first professional goal, it was really exciting',' stated Robinson. "I saw it go in the net and I was like ‘did that just happen?’”.
The Lights FC back-line is happy after helping the team scoring-wise, but is conscious that they have a big task in defending their goal. “Javan and I have viewed film a lot, we just have to communicate better and be more urgent to the ball, anticipate more things happening”, said Robinson.
Lights FC players will wear a special commemorative jersey designed with Vegas Golden Knights colors in their game against Real Monarchs SLC this Saturday to honor the city's NHL franchise who is vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row.
Lights FC will wear commemorative jerseys designed with Vegas Golden Knights colors.
SATURDAY’S OPPONENT : REAL MONARCHS SLC
Real Monarchs SLC arrives to their match against Las Vegas with an undefeated record. After drawing 1-1 in their season opener on the road against Sacramento, Real Monarchs shut down their two next opponents: scoreless draw against El Paso and a dominant victory 5-0 victory over LA Galaxy 2.
Under the command of new head coach Martín Vasquez, Real Monarchs arrives tied for the best defense in the league after allowing only one goal in their first 3 matches. They have an active streak of 189 minutes without being scored on.
David Ochoa, who in 2018 became the second youngest goalkeeper to debut in USL history, has shined with back to back clean sheets against Locomotive FC & Galaxy 2. The 18 year-old has already earned the distinction of being named to the USL Team of the Week twice this season. In November he got signed to a homegrown talent contract by MLS side Real Salt Lake.
Real Monarchs finished the 2018 campaign as the number four seed in the Western Conference, but lost at home in the first round of the playoffs against Reno 1868 FC.
Irvin Parra & Cristhian Hernandez have combined for 17 of Lights FC's league leading 52 shots taken in the first 3 weeks of the 2019 season.
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY’S MATCH:
The Cal-State Northridge graduate has been a key piece for Lights FC's defensive line, but set pieces create opportunities where Las Vegas can take advantage of his height. And that's how his first goal as a professional arrived with a header off of a Cristhian Hernandez free kick in the second half of the match played in Portland against Timbers 2.
Gabe joins Javan Torre as Lights FC's goalscorers in 2019, who will add their name to the list on Saturday by putting the ball in the back of the net?
FORMER USMNT TEAMMATES FACE OFF
Eric Wynalda will have the opportunity to coach against one of his former US Men's National team teammates as Martín Vasquez is the head coach for Real Monarchs SLC.
Wynalda, 3-time World Cup player and former U.S.A. leading goalscorer, was the captain for the national team's trip to China back in 1997 where Martín Vasquez was also part of the Starting X1 for the Stars & Stripes in two exhibition games.
Lights FC Owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook made a commitment that the team would always have a local player on the roster. Of the 5 returnees from the inaugural season squad, 3 of them are born & raised in Las Vegas: Goalkeepers Thomas Olsen (Bishop Gorman) and Angel Alvarez (Rancho H.S.), plus midfielder Matt Thomas (Palo Verde H.S.).
Thomas was the Vegas native that saw most playing time last year as he was on the pitch for a total of 22 matches, in which he scored 3 goals including the first ever in franchise regular season history. He has been subbed-in on the matches against Austin and Portland.
Olsen has gotten the start in goal for the first 3 Lights FC 2019 USL Championship matches, achieving his first clean sheet as a professional on March 6 against Austin Bold FC and stopping a penalty kick on the road against Portland on March 23.
Las Vegas led the league in a statistical department in 2018, but it wasn’t a flattering one: being issued a total of 105 cards (99 yellows & 6 reds).
That has quickly changed with Eric Wynalda at the helm, as the team has averaged only two cautions per game. None of Lights FC's players has more than one yellow card issued so far in the 2019 season.
MLS SPRING TRAINING
When Major League Soccer Spring Training debuted in February 2018, Lights FC was defeated by all 3 MLS opponents they faced at Cashman Field: 2-0 vs Montreal Impact, 3-2 vs Vancouver Whitecaps and 4-2 vs DC United.
But in 2019 Las Vegas defended their home pitch, getting their first victory over a Major League Soccer team by trouncing 2017 MLS Cup champions Toronto FC by a score of 5-1. Following it up with a close matchup with Colorado Rapids that ended with a 2-2 draw, in which Lights FC was the clear aggressor by accumulating a total of 11 shots on goal.
Lights FC played a total of 8 preseason matches, with their undefeated record close to being a perfect one, as they won 7 of those games and their only draw came against Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids 2-2. In these preparation games, Las Vegas outscored their opponents by an aggregate of 31 goals to 9.
UNITED NATIONS OF SOCCER
Jokingly, Eric Wynalda says that his team is the United Nations of Soccer because of the diversity that he has in his locker room. Players born in 6 different countries are a part of Lights FC’s roster, but a total of 12 nations are represented as there are players who have dual citizenship like Javan Torre (USA/Brazil), Edwin Rivas (USA/Guatemala), Pablo Cruz (USA/Honduras), Bryan Arguez (USA/Cuba) and Mobi Fehr (who actually has 3 nationalities as he was born in Manhattan, New York, but his mother is from Japan and his father is from Switzerland). The only continent not represented in Lights FC’s roster is Australia ... maybe coach Wynalda can scout talent “Down Under” for the team to complete the UNITED NATIONS OF SOCCER BINGO GAME.
Bryan de la Fuente - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Sammy Ochoa - OUT - Upper Body Injury
Lights FC will face the best defensive team in USL Championship's Western Conference, as Real Monarchs SLC has only conceded one goal in three games.
HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SATURDAY'S MATCH VS. REAL MONARCHS SLC:
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m., new start time for Lights FC regular season matches in 2019. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, both the box office and will call open at 2:00 p.m. on gameday.
WHERE TO WATCH & LISTEN TO LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC VS. REAL MONARCHS SLC:
Las Vegas Lights FC fans will be able to follow-up along every match of the 2019 USL Championship season via national & local media outlets.
Saturday's game (7:30 p.m. kickoff) will be aired locally on MyLVTV with broadcasters Jeff Radcliffe and George Metellus on the call. The match will also be aired on ESPN+.