In his first start for Lights FC at Cashman Field, Tabort Etaka Preston opened the score against the Defiance and got one more goal in the second half to complete his brace in Las Vegas' 5-0 victory over Tacoma.
Las Vegas, NV – Riding the wave of momentum after a 5-0 win against Tacoma, the largest margin of victory in franchise history, Lights FC (2-3-1) seeks to add their first points on the road as they face the RGV FC Toros (1-3-2) at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas on Saturday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m.
"This team right now is in the right mindset to go into a place like RGV and get a result," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "This is an important game for us, but it might be the most important game this year because we could turn the page and turn the corner."
Despite RGV FC being in eighteenth place out of 18 teams in the Western Conference, Lights FC isn't going into this match relying on their opponents not having a good start. "We know how difficult this league is, every team is stronger at home," said veteran midfielder Lucas Scaglia. "RGV is a good team, they're coming off a win and they're motivated just like we are. We know how to play against them, we have a clear objective in mind. We're always going for the win, either at home or on the road."
After not scoring a goal in the run of play during their first five matches, Las Vegas got four of them in that fashion against Tacoma on Saturday, April 13. Cameroon Youth National Team star Tabort Etaka Preston shot left-footed strikes from inside the box to get his first two goals of the season against Defiance.
Taking advantage of his first start at home this season by having his best performance as a member of Lights FC. "Putting in the hard work allowed me to get the start for the game and I'm happy for that," stated Preston. "I have to continue working hard to keep getting better every day. We're working together as a team, and that's the way we have to do it to keep improving."
The defensive effort Las Vegas has shown in 2019 hasn’t gone unnoticed, with goalkeeper Thomas Olsen tied for second best in USL Championship with 3 clean sheets through 6 games. 'TKO' is also tied for fifth best in the league with a total of 18 saves. Defenders Kevin Garcia Lopez and Gabe Robinson join Olsen as the only Lights FC players to have played in every minute of the 2019 regular season.
Irvin Parra followed up his first official goal with Lights FC on the road against San Antonio with a stellar performance at Cashman Field, where he led Las Vegas to its largest margin of victory in franchise history.
SATURDAY’S OPPONENT: RGV FC TOROS
RGV FC Toros will close a three-game homestand by hosting Las Vegas. In their last two matches, they've earned 4 of the 5 points they have in the 2019 season.
The Toros have had a hard time finding the back of the net this season, as they've only scored 5 goals through 6 games (third worst in the Western Conference). They've also been shutout three times so far.
Gerson Echeverry is in his second season as RGV FC's manager, failing to advance to the playoffs in his first year with the team. Jesús Enríquez leads the Toros with two goals, while Isidro Martinez has a pair of assists.
In six matches, Rio Grande Valley FC has played a total of 4 different goalkeepers, none of them getting back to back starts. Houston Dynamo goalies Michael Nelson and Tyler Deric have seen action this season with the Toros, as they have a hybrid affiliation with their in-state MLS neighbor. RGV's Ben Willis played in their first match back on March 8 in a 1-0 loss against Tacoma and hasn't been on the field since. Nico Corti has defended the Toros goal twice, including in the team's first win of the season (2-1 against OKC Energy) this past Saturday.
Matt Thomas replaced injured Christian Torres in the first half of Lights FC's match against Tacoma. The Las Vegas native and Palo Verde High School standout served a perfect cross which Irvin Parra converted into his final goal of the game to be credite
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY’S MATCH:
IRVIN "DANGER" PARRA
Parra scored the second hat trick in Lights FC history by sending the ball to the back of the net twice in the first half and once in the second half against Tacoma Defiance. After not getting any goals in Lights FC's first four regular season games, "Danger" has scored four times in the last two games.
Irvin leads USL Championship with 21 shots taken, and he's tied for the sixth best in the league with 4 goals scored.
In 2017 Parra became the first player in USL Championship history to finish a season with a "double-double", as he scored 11 goals and recorded 10 assists when he split time between Seattle Sounders 2 and Orange County SC.
TKO THIRD CLEAN SHEET
Las Vegas native Thomas Olsen has shutout half of the opponents Las Vegas has faced in the 2019 USL Championship season (Austin Bold FC, Real Monarchs SLC and Tacoma Defiance), matching in the team's first 6 matches of the year the number of clean sheets that Lights FC had in its full 34-game inaugural 2018 campaign.
'TKO' is tied for second best in USL Championship with 3 clean sheets through 6 games. 'TKO' is also tied for fifth best in the league with a total of 18 saves.
The Bishop Gorman grad has an active streak of 317 minutes without allowing a goal at Cashman Field (going back to Lights FC's home finale in 2018 against Phoenix Rising FC).
NEW FACE IN THE LOCKER ROOM
Lights FC agreed to terms with Memphis 901 FC for the transfer of midfielder Junior Sandoval, who joined team practices this week and is available to play.
Sandoval became the third Honduran in history to play in the Colombian top flight when he was part of Jaguares de Córdoba. He had a stint with 9-time Honduras title holders C.D. Marathón, where he had the opportunity to play in the CONCACAF Champions League against MLS opponent Seattle Sounders.
“It was a great move for the club, he’s a very versatile player, he can play several positions for us,” said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda on Sandoval joining his team. “More so than anything, he’s a winner, he has a lot of heart. We were fighting through a lot of adversity right now, his insertion into this team and eventually into the lineup is going to help us immensely.”
U.S. OPEN CUP
Lights FC is set to play in their second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, as U.S. Soccer revealed the Second Round pairings and host scenarios for the 106th edition of the tournament. Las Vegas will host the winner of the First Round matchup between amateur side Cal FC and NPSL squad FC Mulhouse Portland.
The Second Round game between Lights FC and either Cal FC or FC Mulhouse Portland will be played at Cashman Field on Tuesday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Every game of the tournament will be aired live on ESPN+ after U.S. Soccer and ESPN+ reached an exclusive agreement for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that will run through 2022.
Bryan de la Fuente - OUT - Lower Body Injury
WHERE TO WATCH & LISTEN TO LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC VS. RGV FC:
Las Vegas Lights FC fans will be able to follow along every match of the 2019 USL Championship season via national & local media outlets.
Saturday's game (5:30 p.m. kickoff) will be broadcasted locally on MyLVTV with BetCast being broadcast from the VSIN studios at the South Point Hotel & Casino. Lights FC Insider Harry Ruiz will handle play by play duties, accompanied by Matthew Holt providing the inside scoop about in-game betting.