Forward Juan Jose Calderon "smiles for the cameras" after scoring in the second half of the club's 3-2 defeat at the hands of Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, February 17, 2018, at Cashman Field. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
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The second leg of Soccer Spring Training at Cashman Field saw Las Vegas Lights FC make Cashman Field erupt by scoring the first two goals in club history. The club ultimately dropped the match to Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 3-2, but sent everyone in the building home encouraged by what lies ahead.
The match was played in front of another energetic crowd of 6,049 at Cashman Field, and leaves one leg of Soccer Spring Training left to go - next Saturday night at 8 p.m. vs. visiting D.C. United.
Lights FC allowed two Whitecaps goals in the first half, but the club responded and brought the Supporters Section to life in both the 65th and 68th minutes. It was then when, just minutes after substituting into the game, forward Juan Jose Calderon drilled home scores on a free kick and a penalty kick, respectively, in front of the club's most passionate fans,
"It's important as a professional footballer that when your coach asks you to play, you're ready," Calderon said. "Today, I was the one that scored, but it was from the effort of the team.
"The fans here are very committed, since the first day I arrived here for training. They have always been with us. I felt their support when we've been losing, and I felt it when I scored."
Seated in the front row of the Supporters Section when both goals were scored was Lights FC head coach Chelís, who was sent off along with Lights FC assistant coach Isidro Sánchez and Whitecaps assistant coach Martyn Pert following a red card being issued to Lights FC defender Marcelo Alatorre in the 57th minute.
With Chelís in the stands and the team's captain in the locker room, while playing down a man, Lights FC was able to dig deep and provide its most thrilling highlights of the preseason.
"In Mexico, we have a quote: 'What doesn't kill you, makes you fat.'" Chelís said. "Today, those send-offs helped us, and the personality of the team, helped us. I am happy that the best performance of my team was with me (in the stands). They made everything happen."
The deciding goal came in the 74th goal, when Whitecaps star striker Kei Kamara scored after a hesitation on a penalty kick. Vancouver's first two tallies of the night came in the 12th and 18th minutes from Cristian Techera and Alphonso Davies, respectively.
Despite the result, a festive atmosphere was still present the entire night, beginning outside of Cashman Field at the Zappos Tailgate, then throughout the match. Chelís believes that will remain the case as long as his team continues what he believes is an upward trend overall.
"Furthermore than the result, I am very happy with my team," Chelís added. "Last week, in the first half, we put the ball in the 18-box four times. Today, in the first half, we put it in the box 19 times. Then, in the second half, we scored twice. The most difficult part for any human being is trying to be better every day. We're becoming better every week. We just need to fix a little bit more. I'm here because I believe in them."
Single-game tickets for Lights FC’s final Soccer Spring Training match (NEXT SATURDAY, Feb. 24 vs. D.C. United) and all USL regular season matches, starting March 24 vs. in-state rival Reno 1868 FC, are now on sale, starting at just $15. Purchase today by visiting LightsFC.com/SingleTix or by calling 702.728.GOAL (4625) during regular business hours. They can also be purchased at all La Bonita Supermarket locations in the Las Vegas valley.
Lights FC 2018 season tickets are also still on sale, starting at just $180 for the remaining 18 home-match schedule. Each season ticket purchased includes a free team jersey (valued at $80). Tickets for groups of 10 or more are also now on sale, starting at just $18 per ticket, with each ticket purchased including a free Lights FC scarf (valued at $20). For more ticketing inquiries, visit LightsFC.com/Tickets.
Despite falling 3-2 to Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the second leg of Soccer Spring Training, Lights FC gave its fans at Cashman Field plenty to be excited about, including two dramatic second half scores from Juan Jose Calderon. (PHOTOS: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)