Irvin Raul Parra will face his former team, as he played 26 games for Sounders 2 (now Tacoma Defiance) between the 2016 and 2017 seasons where he scored 7 goals and had 9 assists.
Las Vegas, NV – While many think the twenty days without a USL Championship match was a "break" for Lights FC, the team has been working hard to take on a stretch of games that will see them have four of their next five matches on the road and six out of their next eight away from Cashman Field, kicking off with an away matchup against Tacoma Defiance on Wednesday, July 24 at 7:00 p.m..
“It actually turned out to be a little bit of an advantage for us, we got a chance to let some guys heal up, get some rest, and kind of just hit the reset button as we begin the second part of the season," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "We have 16 games left and we’re assessing a lot of different things. We’re addressing the physical side of things just to make sure we’re not going to get any untimely injuries as we hit the last phase.”
During the next eight-week stretch, Lights FC will have two games in a four-day span four times and two games in a five-day span once. This scheduling has made their approach on the process to get ready for constant gameday action with a lot of traveling involved.
“It’s one of those scenarios where we’re getting ourselves prepared for the next game but making sure that we gage where everyone’s fitness levels are," stated Wynalda. "There will be a bit of a rotation going into those set of games. We have to evaluate and analyze the opponents, figure out what the right equation is for us, and address it appropriately making sure that we get through this unscathed.”.
When Las Vegas takes on Tacoma, it'll be their first road test in over a month, with the last one being a road victory over El Paso Locomotive FC by a score of 1-0. An away win that raised Lights FC's confidence and that showed them that they can get positive results despite not playing at home.
"El Paso was a great test of character for the boys, we had a great mindset going in and a great plan that was well executed", said Wynalda. "We will take the mentality that ‘we do know how to win on the road’ and ‘we do know how to get points’ to Tacoma and the remaining eight away games. It’s just a matter of application and execution. This is a tough league, every team proposes a new challenge but I think the guys’ mentality is ready for the road and we’ve got enough of that coming up.”
In the first matchup this season between Lights FC and Defiance, Las Vegas obtained the largest margin of victory in franchise history with a 5-0 win at Cashman Field on April 13. Irvin Raul Parra scored a hat-trick against his former team and Tabort Etaka Preston found the back of the net twice for his first USL Championship goals. Despite Tacoma being in the bottom of the Western Conference, this match is not one that Lights FC will take lightly.
“There is a lot of value to what they’re doing in Tacoma. They are in the middle of their project if you will", said Las Vegas head coach Eric Wynalda. "They are, at times, a very scary team because they do have the ability to shut it down and make it very difficult for the opponent, but they can at times get behind defenses. Our approach to this game and an agreement we’ve come to as a team is that every game and every point is important, home or away.”
In a 13-day span, Jesus Gonzalez made his USL debut, was part of Lights FC's lineup for the first time and scored his first goal in the league.
Tacoma Defiance, formerly known as Seattle Sounders 2, is returning home for their first game at Cheney Stadium since June 1st after a four-game road trip, which concluded twelve days ago.
Chris Little is in his first year as head coach with Tacoma Defiance, while still being the Director of Coaching for MLS' side Sounders FC's Academy.
At the young age of 20, Hawaiian born winger Shandon Hopeau is Tacoma's captain and leads the team in appearances (16) and starts (14) this season.
Justin Dhillon is Defiance's top goalscorer, putting the ball in the back of the net 6 times in his last 7 matches with Tacoma. Las Vegas native Azriel Gonzalez is the only other player on the team with multiple goals (2).
Defiance is the team that has used the most players in USL Championship during the 2019 season with 39.Tacoma has USL Loan Agreements with thirteen players from MLS side Seattle Sounders.
Two of Thomas Olsen's seven clean sheets have happened while playing on the road in the 2019 USL Championship season.
Despite having a 20-day span without a USL Championship match, Lights FC only dropped two spots in the league standings and now have games in hand against their direct competition to jump into a playoff position. With 23 points in 18 games, Las Vegas can jump to ninth or tenth place in the Western Conference with a win on Wednesday (depending on the result between Sacramento and New Mexico, who will face each other that same night).
All but two teams in the West (Real Monarchs SLC and Sacramento) have more games played than Lights FC in the 2019 regular season.
In a year where goals are being scored in a historically high-rate in USL Championship, Lights FC's defense is currently ranked as the fifth-best defense in the Western Conference, conceding 27 goals.
Las Vegas has allowed an average of 1.5 goals per game. But if the road defeats where they were scored on 4+ times are taken out of the picture, the average in the other 15 matches is .93 goals per game, which would rank second in the West only behind Phoenix Rising FC. This has been a major improvement after conceding the most goals in the Conference during the 2018 season (74).
It took Lights FC eight cracks at it, but finally, the eighth time was the charm. After going 0-6-1 in their first seven games away from Cashman Field, Las Vegas was able to obtain their first road win of the 2019 USL Championship season by cutting El Paso Locomotive's nine-game undefeated streak with a 1-0 victory.
Eric Wynalda's side is working hard to keep obtaining positive results when playing without their home-field advantage, as 4 of their next 5 matches and 6 of their next 8 games will be on the road.
The Las Vegas-born & raised goalkeeper is fourth-best in USL Championship with seven clean sheets, which is more than double the times (3) Lights FC shutout their opponents in a total of 38 games in 2018. His 48 saves have "TKO" tied for fifth-best in the Western Conference.
Parra ranks fifth-best in USL Championship's Western Conference with nine goals. The next time he scores he will become the second player in Lights FC history to have double-digit goals in a single season, additionally, he will go into a three-way tie with Raul Mendiola and Sammy Ochoa as the top-scorers in team history (10 each).
Jesus Gonzalez made his USL Championship debut on the road against El Paso on June 22 as a sub, he then went on to be selected to be a part of Lights FC's Starting XI versus OKC Energy FC on June 29 and five days later he went on to score his first goal in the league with an impressive left-footed strike against L.A. Galaxy II.
Mobi Fehr - QUESTIONABLE - Lower Body Injury
Bryan de la Fuente - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Las Vegas Lights FC fans will be able to follow-up along with every match of the 2019 USL Championship season via national & local media outlets.
Wednesday's game (7:00 p.m. kickoff) will be aired nationally on ESPN+ with broadcasters Andrew Harvey and Dave Clark announcing the action.
The Spanish-language radio broadcast with Alvaro Puentes & Alejandro Romo on the call can be listened at ESPN Deportes 1460 AM & online on LVSportsNetwork.com.