Cashman Field has been a fortress for Lights FC this season, with Las Vegas winning nine games so far with over 120,000 fans attending a total of 16 regular season games.
LAS VEGAS, NV -- For the first time in nearly 19 months, Cashman Field will host the Silver State Cup matchup between Las Vegas and Reno. Not only bragging-rights in this state-rivalry are on the line, but for Lights FC this game marks the most important one in franchise history to date. Las Vegas is close to jumping into a playoff spot with 2 matches remaining in the regular season. Taking care of business in their final home game of the season is crucial.
"To be honest, I think it’s the perfect storm for us. I’ve said all along that in order to earn your way into the playoffs, you have to prove that you are worthy," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. "Beating Reno, which is our main rival, would send that message. We’re looking at an opportunity to do things this club has never done: win three games in a row, beat Reno, and make the playoffs. It’s the trifecta and that’s what we're thinking about right now."
For just the third time this season, Lights FC was able to pick up back to back victories to aid their playoff push. Las Vegas received an offensive spark by scoring three or more goals in each of those wins, with starting forwards Irvin Parra and Tabort Etaka Preston combining for 8 goals. The Lights trailed for a total of only 4 minutes throughout those three games. Lights FC is jelling at the right time from top to bottom.
“Everyone is on the same page right now. We’re getting production from (Tabort Etaka) Preston and (Irvin Raul) Parra, and also the defense is showing up. We’re just clicking right now and we're going to bring it against Reno," stated Las Vegas born and raised goalkeeper Thomas Olsen. "The Silver State Cup is important and it's obviously something we want to shoot for, but what we want the most are the three points so we can stay in the fight for a playoff spot and make a statement in the league.”
In a season with highs and lows, there is definitely an improvement from the team's inaugural year. Eric Wynalda has commanded his squad to still have a shot at making it to the playoffs with two games left in the regular season. The confidence from coaches and players is at an all-time high. The overall sentiment is that it is key to close 2019 strong and on a high note.
“It has been a journey this year for all of us and a learning process that I think, to a certain extent, is necessary to become a good team. Right now we are a good team," said Wynalda. "If we get through the next two games, max out on points and get a little help and make our way into the playoffs, I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to play against us in the form we’re in.”
SATURDAY’S OPPONENT: RENO 1868 FC
1868 FC clinched a spot in the playoffs with their road win over New Mexico United on September 20th, marking the third season in a row that Ian Russell has led Reno to the postseason since being named their inaugural head coach in 2017.
Corey Hertzog leads the team with 16 goals, followed by Las Vegas native and UNLV graduate Danny Musovski with 11 goals. Former Lights FC player Raul Mendiola has 4 goals and tops 1868 FC with 7 assists.
J.T. Marcinkowski and Matt Bersano have split time as Reno's starting goalkeepers, with both having 16 appearances. Marcinkowski has started 1868 FC's last three games, including his team-leading fourth clean sheet with a nine save performance in their scoreless draw against El Paso on October 5.
Irvin Raul Parra was selected to USL Championship's team of the week for the second week in a row after scoring a brace in back-to-back games.
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY’S MATCH:
DOMINANT AT HOME
Lights FC has the opportunity of reaching double-digit home victories this season in their Silver State Cup rivalry match against Reno. Only three teams in the Western Conference have 10 or more home wins so far this season: Phoenix (12), Fresno (10), and Austin Bold FC (10).
Las Vegas won only 6 matches at Cashman Field in 2018, barely outscoring their opponents 28 to 27 in a total of 17 home games. In 16 times they've played at home this season, the Lights already have 9 wins while outscoring their opposition by an aggregate of 31 to 15.
CONSISTENCY ON THE FIELD
After only having four players in 2018 that saw over 2,000 minutes of action, this season Lights FC already has seven of its members surpass that amount: Gabe Robinson (2,790 - franchise season record), Javan Torre (2,674), Thomas Olsen (2,610), Irvin Raul Parra (2,363), Christian Torres (2,361), Kevin Garcia Lopez (2,191), and Tabort Etaka Preston (2,191). Mobi Fehr is close to joining that group, he's only 37 minutes away.
Only one team in the Western Conference has more players than Las Vegas that have surpassed the 2,000-minute plateau: OKC Energy FC with 9, including former Las Vegas midfielder Rafael Garcia.
After allowing 74 goals in 2018 (fourth-worst defense out of 33 teams in USL Championship), Lights FC has enhanced its back-line and is now ranked ninth-best in the Western Conference.
This year Las Vegas has 17 games without allowing multiple goals, with nine of them being clean sheets. The team only had three games where they shut out the opposing offense during its inaugural season, having a total of 13 matches where they didn't allow multiple goals.
Lights FC's opponents have taken a total of 181 corner kicks, with Las Vegas only conceding one goal in those opportunities.
IRVIN RAUL PARRA
Irvin Parra had his fourth multi-goal game of the season by scoring a brace against San Antonio FC, extending his franchise-record scoring tally to 15, tied for fifth-best in USL Championship and tied for third-best in the Western Conference. His seven assists are also tied for the all-time team-high.
By being a part of USL Championship's Team of the Week in week 31, Parra became the first Lights FC player with back to back selections.
Parra's 22 combined goals + assists are the most in a season by a Lights FC player. He is one of only three players in USL Championship with at least 15 goals and 7 assists in 2019, joining Solomon Asante and Junior Flemmings.
"THE FRESH PRINCE" STRIKES
Tabort Etaka Preston scored his eighth goal of the season in Lights FC's 4-2 victory against San Antonio FC. It marked the second time this season that the Cameroonian found the back of the net in consecutive matches, he has also scored in three out of the last four games. He became just the fourth player in team history to score at least eight goals in a season (joining Irvin Parra, Sammy Ochoa, and Raul Mendiola).
Las Vegas is undefeated in every game that Preston records a goal (7 wins, 1 draw).
Cristian Martinez, MLS loanee from Chicago Fire and Panamanian National Team member, has capitalized on his time with Lights FC. Since making his debut with Las Vegas, Martinez has recorded two goals and an assist. In his time between Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire of the MLS, plus Pittsburgh Riverhounds and FC Cincinnati of the USL, the Panama native had one goal and three assists in 41 games over 4 seasons.
On his rookie season as a professional soccer player, defender Gabe Robinson leads USL Championship with a total of 168 clearances, which is a Lights FC franchise record (Miguel Garduño led Las Vegas in 2018 with 123 clearances).
Against San Antonio FC, Robinson broke a pair of single-season team records: most starts with 31 and most minutes played in a year with 2,790. He is one of only four players in Lights FC history with multiple USL Championship Team of the Week selections: Irvin Raul Parra with 4. Gabe Robinson, Thomas Olsen, and Raul Mendiola with 2 each.
Panzani Sousa has been a starter in seven of Lights FC's last eight matches, racking up a total of 585 minutes in that span. 'Ferrety' had only seen action in 82 minutes through Lights FC's first 24 games.
Sousa has taken advantage of the opportunity of getting playing time. He was involved in each of the four goals Las Vegas scored against San Antonio FC on October 5. He has recorded either a goal or an assist in three of Lights FC's last four games.
"He has gone through so much this year. Nobody has worked harder, nobody deserves the success he's enjoying right now more than he does," said Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda on Sousa. "Every time I've ever said something to him, he says yes sir. I can't say enough good things about Sousa. He's everything that we've wanted him to be and more.
The Las Vegas-born & raised goalkeeper is one of only three goalkeepers in USL Championship's Western Conference that has at least nine clean sheets, which is triple the times (3) Lights FC shut out their opponents in a total of 34 games in 2018. Olsen became the eighth goalkeeper in USL Championship's Western Conference to have at least 9 clean sheets in a season since 2017 (regular season only).
"TKO" matched his season-high with his 5-save performance against San Antonio FC, elevating his season total to 83 saves, which is third-best in USL Championship's Western Conference and a franchise season record for Lights FC.
Santiago Echavarría - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Junior Sandoval - OUT - Lower Body Injury
Against San Antonio FC, Thomas Olsen tied his season-high 5 saves, including one that was nominated for Save of the Week by USL Championship.
** Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m., start time for all Lights FC home 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 regular-season gameday. Tickets are available at LightsFC.com/Tix and at every La Bonita Supermarket in Las Vegas.
** The Zappos Tailgate Party begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Cashman Field plaza, where fans can enjoy beer specials, tailgate games for adults and kids, music, the Zappos llamas Dottie and Dollie, Lights FC merchandise, and much more.
** Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day at Cashman Field, with tons of prizes being given away to lucky fans in attendance including: One (1) 2019 Chevy Silverado Truck, two (2) Boost Mobile Ultimate BBQ Packages, Fifty (50) Soccer Balls courtesy of Clark County Credit Union, one (1) fan will get credit up to $200 off this month's electricity bill sponsored by Universal Solar Direct, one (1) tablet presented by Security National, $6,000 of orthodontic work courtesy of Boston Dental Group, plus dozens of coupons for Denny's and Topgolf.
** Media credential on-site pick-up and entry begins at 4:30 p.m. Credentials can be picked up at Media Check-In, located at the Zappos Gate. For all other media-related inquiries, please visit our Media Center.
** The party doesn't stop at the end of the action on the pitch. After every Lights FC home match, Two Roots Brewing, and Zappos will host the "Happier Hour" post-game party at Cashman Field's Club Level Restaurant. Team players and manager Eric Wynalda will make an appearance at the party that is open to fans of all ages that are in attendance at Cashman Field.
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 (7:30 p.m. kickoff) will be aired locally on MyLVTV with broadcasters Jeff Radcliffe and Tom Traxler announcing the action.
The match will also be aired on ESPN+, while the Spanish-language radio broadcast with Alvaro Puentes & Alejandro Romo on the call can be listened at Deportes Vegas 1460 AM & online on LVSportsNetwork.com.