LAS VEGAS, NV - It's no secret, playing at Cashman Field makes Lights FC a team with an edge. Las Vegas dug themselves out of being down on the scoreboard for the first time at home this season, finishing off with a 4-2 win over Sacramento Republic FC in front of 7,478 fans in attendance.
Facing a dangerous Sacramento side who had the best defense in USL Championship's Western Conference, Lights FC got into a strategic battle in the first half that saw both teams fighting to keep possession and try to attack the opposing side of the pitch, going into the halftime break with a 0-0 tie.
Las Vegas was forced to change their solid back-line due to injuries suffered by right-back Kevin Garcia Lopez and left-back Christian Torres against Los Angeles Galaxy II. Despite taking care of business in the first 45 minutes of play, a long cross by Republic FC's Elliot Hord found Hayden Partain in the back post who with a left-footed strike put the ball past Thomas Olsen and got Sacramento up 1-0. This was the first time Lights FC was scored on at home this season, stopping Olsen's streak without conceding a goal at Cashman Field at 368 minutes.
"I think clearly we got it wrong from the start, we just had to make an adjustment on that right side because it was too much of an ask. Number 11 (Sam Werner), what a player he was," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "And when they got the goal, we really just had to change our mentality, switch the way they were playing".
Trailing for the first time on their pitch in 2019 USL Championship action forced Lights FC to make changes, bringing in experienced midfielder Cristhian Hernandez to replace Lucas Scaglia shortly after Sacramento took the lead. Another player who was subbed in was Santiago Echavarría, who made his professional debut by stepping on the field in the 65th minute.
Both were difference makers at the end of the game, with "Tripa" changing the complexity of the match by giving Lights FC's offense a new dimension and furthering their opportunities deep into their opponent's side of the field. While Echavarría was a force inside the box that obligated Sacramento to put extra attention on him.
Lights FC players were elated after Santiago Echavarría scored 10 minutes after making his professional debut.
In the 67th minute, Hernandez heeled the ball behind him, finding Irvin Raul Parra to his right, where he ended up taking a low shot that found the back of the net to tie the game with his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Shortly afterward, Las Vegas had a golden opportunity with a corner kick by "Tripa" that went through the goalkeeper Josh Cohen's hands and fell right in front of Gabe Robinson's feet inside the 6-yard box where he simply tapped it in to put the home team in front 2-1 in the 71st minute of play.
A one-goal lead wasn't enough for the Wynalda-led Lights, who kept pushing forward and scored for the third time in less than 10 minutes when a perfectly placed pass by Irvin Raul Parra landed behind the debuting Santiago Echavarria, who turned around to place the ball out of Cohen's reach and put the cherry on top for his first game as a pro by scoring a goal on his mother's birthday.
With a comfortable multiple goal lead, Las Vegas was still able to put a fourth one past the defense that before this match had only allowed five goals in seven games. Parra was credited with his second assist of the match when he served Junior Sandoval, who unleashed a rocket that sent Cashman Field into a frenzy in the 90th minute of the match.
"The fans brought us back into it. We got a goal which gave us a little bit of confidence and we went from there," stated Wynalda. "I don't want to use too big of words, but it was a monumental win for this club, and that was a great team in Sacramento. We were able to put four past them. To score four times on those guys means we're doing something right."
Sacramento was able to get one last score in added time before traveling back to California's capital. Republic FC got 3 headers on the ball inside the 6-yard box, with the final one destined to leave the final score at 4-2.
Junior Sandoval scored his first goal with Lights FC in his third match since arriving at Las Vegas after being traded from Memphis 901 FC.
"Look, we can't get too ahead of ourselves. We're going to take a couple of days and really digest this first, then we have to figure out how we're going to adjust for the game against Colorado Springs, but I couldn't be happier with the group with the way they reacted," said Wynalda. "The first part of the game was really not what we're used to for the guys at home. But at some point ... they flipped that switch, turned the lights on and then we were good".
The victory pushes Las Vegas up to 11th place in USL Championship's Western Conference standings with 11 points, only 4 points away from Tulsa Roughnecks and Portland Timbers 2 who are tied in the top of the table.
Lights FC will play their second consecutive match at Cashman Field on Saturday, May 11 as they host Colorado Springs Switchbacks at 7:30 p.m.Tickets for this game and all Lights FC 2019 regular season home matches can be purchased at LightsFC.com/Tix or at any La Bonita Supermarket in Las Vegas.