Lights FC midfielder Carlos Alvarez battles for possession during the club's preseason finale on the road against Orange County SC. Lights FC battled to a 1-1 draw in Irvine, Calif. (Liza Rosales / Orange County SC)
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There were mostly positive vibes on the bus heading back to Las Vegas following Lights FC’s 1-1 draw on Friday in its preseason finale against United Soccer League (USL) Western Conference foe Orange County SC.
Those were the result of a final 30 minutes that featured Lights FC again coming from behind to tie an opponent, then have several near-misses in a quest to taste victory in its first outing against USL competition.
“We have to work on playing like that the whole game, not just the last 25-30 minutes,” Lights FC forward Anuar Kanan said. “I think it was very important to have this last game against a USL team. Throughout the whole preseason, we played (Major League Soccer) teams and didn’t really know what to expect from a USL team. Now we know, and also know what it’s like to play on the road. I think we’re ready to start the season.”
The regular season begins next Saturday, March 17th, on the road at Fresno FC. That is followed by four straight home matches, beginning with the Saturday, March 24th inaugural installment of the soon-to-be-named in-state series between Lights FC and Reno 1868 FC. There are still two days left to vote on the name of the Las Vegas vs. Reno series at nevadasoccervote.com.
During a bit of a slow start, Orange County SC struck first in the 17th minute, but an improved defensive effort from start to finish on Friday was what helped make Lights FC’s comeback possible.
Overall, it was an improved effort from the 4-man back line of Christian Torres, Miguel Angel Garduño, Joel Huiqui and captain Marcelo Alatorre – a group which is building more and more chemistry as the days pass heading into the 2018 regular season.
“It was a good, long shot … When they score a goal like that, there’s not much you can do (to stop it),” Garduño said. “On defense, we’re working hard. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. Every player on the defense knows what (Lights FC head coach) Chelís wants. Everyone has to give the effort. It’s a battle. For us, we have to win every ball, every play, and that’s what we were doing.”
The tone that was set on defense then set the stage for Lights FC’s fast and furious close to the match on the other end of the field.
Lights FC came out of halftime with an energetic pace, and immediately created several scoring chances. They finally broke through in the 77th minute, when after the Orange County SC keeper saved a Garduño header attempt, Kanan was there to clean things up and score his first goal of the preseason.
“All of the things that we show or do in a game, we practice them the whole week,” Kanan said. “Always sticking to the play is something we practice, and today, it gave us a (goal).”
As was the case against MLS opponent D.C. United in February’s Soccer Spring Training finale at Cashman Field, Lights FC then had some clean opportunities in crunch time to deliver fireworks. In the 88th minute, midfielder Matt Thomas and forward Sammy Ochoa each had header attempts that nearly put Lights FC on top.
Overall, it was a solid finish to the preseason, with the team heading back now to put the finishing touches on things before the results truly count, beginning next Saturday night.
“It was a very good scrimmage for us, because this is going to be our league, the kind of (opposition) we’re going to have the whole season,” Garduño added. “We know that we’re ready for the league.”
Lights FC midfielder Freddy Adu works the ball upfield against Orange County SC on Friday, March 9, 2018, during a preseason match in Irvine, Calif. (Liza Rosales / Orange County SC)
Lights FC goalkeeper Ricard Ferriño makes a diving save against Orange County SC during a preseason match on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Liza Rosales / Orange County SC)