Christian Torres had a total of 8 clearances against Sacramento Republic FC, second most in the nationally televised match only behind Gabe Robinson's 12.
Irvine, CA – The final third of the 2019 USL Championship season has a tight playoff race in the Western Conference, where Lights FC and Orange County SC come into Saturday's match with 27 points each. Both are currently just 3 points outside of the last playoff spot, but only 6 points away from a two-way tie for fifth place.
"Let’s face it, this is a game where we must have a playoff mentality going into the match," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "We cannot afford to lose this game and I think that our guys know that. There is a reason why we've been intense in practice, and I hope that intensity remains as we continue to prepare for Saturday’s matchup.”
Wynalda won't have two of his forwards available for this match due to yellow card accumulation: Irvin Raul Parra and Tabort Etaka Preston. This opens up a huge opportunity for Colombian striker Santiago Echavarría.
“We need to leave it all on the pitch, we’ve been getting better on the road both defensively and offensively,'' stated Echavarria, who has three starts under his belt this season, all of them being on the road. "We’re going to close strong when pushing forward because our preparation has been excellent, our goal is to get the 3 points in Orange County."
This match will mark the end of a three-game road stretch, which is also the last game in California this season for Lights FC. It has the potential to have a "home feel" for the Lights with it being within driving distance from Las Vegas, plus a total of ten Lights FC players hail from Southern California.
"A lot of our guys are familiar with that field, some of their families and our fans will be there, it might even feel like a home match," said coach Wynalda. "Getting our heads right, staying disciplined in the back, especially dealing with a very quick and powerful team. Our attitude has to be to take nothing for granted and go in there and give it a really solid effort and may the best team win.”
Orange County has gone undefeated in their last three home matches, including a 4-1 win against Reno 1868 FC.
Braeden Cloutier was named head coach of OCSC ahead of the 2018 season, where he led the team to be the only one in the Western Conference to reach 20 wins. After finishing the regular season with the best record in the conference, Orange County SC was eliminated in the USL Cup playoffs Western Conference Final.
Darwin Jones and Michael Seaton are the Orange County's leading scorers with 8 goals, with the Southern California squad winning the three matches in 2019 where both of them put the ball in the back of the net.
Seventeen year-old Aaron Cervantes has started in goal for OCSC in the five games since the club parted ways with MLS veteran Patrick McLain. Cervantes only allowed one goal in the three home games he started in the month of July, including clean sheets against San Antonio and Sacramento.
Thomas Olsen obtained his eighth clean sheet of the season by racking up three saves in a scoreless tie against Sacramento Republic FC.
Lights FC struck a loan deal with LAFC to add Rodolfo Zelaya to its roster. Zelaya is one of the most decorated players in El Salvador soccer history, earning 44 caps with his national team where his 21 goals have him trailing only Raúl Díaz Arce as his country's top goalscorer. He played vital roles for El Salvador in the 2011 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cups, where he scored 4 goals in each.
Winner of four championships in the Salvadoran first division with league titans Alianza FC, he scored a total of 126 goals in his time with the club. Zelaya springboarded from his native country to play in Mexico for Club Leon, in Russia with FC Alania Vladikavkaz and eventually signing in January 2019 with Major League Soccer's Los Angeles FC.
The Las Vegas-born & raised goalkeeper is fourth-best in USL Championship and second-best in the Western Conference with eight clean sheets, which is almost triple the times (3) Lights FC shutout their opponents in a total of 38 games in 2018. TKO's 61 saves are the fifth-best in the Western Conference.
In the three matches that Lights FC has obtained points on the road this season, Olsen hasn't allowed a goal: Scoreless ties against Galaxy II and Sacramento, plus a 1-0 win at El Paso.
Lights FC rookie defender Gabe Robinson was key in Lights FC not conceding goals against Republic FC, and he was recognized for it. Robinson was selected to USL Championship's Team of the Week for week 23. The Valencia, California native led Las Vegas with 12 clearances, won 3 of 4 aerial challenges and completed 74% of his passes in the scoreless draw at Sacramento. This was Robinson's second Team of the Week honor in the 2019 USL Championship season.
After signing as a free agent, MLS veteran Jose Villarreal has worked himself into Lights FC's Starting XI. Against Sacramento Republic FC he logged in his first full game with Las Vegas. "Chepe" was close to scoring his first goal with the team in that match, with his lone shot hitting the post.
Santiago Echavarría made a splash with Lights FC on May 4. The Colombian native made his pro-debut as a substitute player against Sacramento Republic FC, only ten minutes later he scored the game-winning goal for Las Vegas. He has played a total of 298 minutes in 7 matches played, with his 3 starts coming on the road.
Pablo Cruz is the only position player to have seen action in every one of the 24 official Lights FC matches in 2019, including USL Championship and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action.
He leads the team with a total of 44 chances created, which is sixth-best in the Western Conference. But had been itching to find the back of the net, and that finally happened on August 3, 2019 against Fresno FC. Coming in as a substitute against the Foxes in the 75th minute, Cruz scored his first goal with Las Vegas off of a long corner kick from Gabe Robinson.
Dutch midfielder Vinnie was originally loaned out by Nashville SC on July 2 but was recalled by the Tennessee team just a week later. Vermeer made his debut with Lights FC against Fresno FC Foxes on August 3rd against Fresno FC as a halftime substitute, four days later he started versus Sacramento Republic FC.
Irvin Raul Parra - OUT - Suspension (Yellow Card Accumulation)
Tabort Etaka Preston - OUT - Suspesion (Yellow Card Accumulation)
Mobi Fehr - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Bryan de la Fuente - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Junior Sandoval took over the on-field captain role with Lights FC in Mid-July, he's the fourth player on the team to sport the captain armband in USL Championship action this year.
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.
Saturday's game (7:00 p.m. kickoff) which will be aired nationwide on ESPN+ with broadcasters Drew Fellios and Ryan Davis Kerr announcing the action.