Lights FC defender Marco Cesar Jaime Jr. (left) congratulates midfielder Alex Mendoza after his first half goal against Reno 1868 FC at Cashman Field on Saturday, March 24, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
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It was a night that had everything minus a true winner on the scoreboard.
In front of a highly-energized crowd of 9,019 at Cashman Field for the first USL regular season home match in club history, Lights FC battled its in-state rival Reno 1868 FC to a 1-1 draw. It leaves things all even in the race for the 2018 Silver State Cup, as the two will decide a winner towards the end of the season with two meetings still to come in Reno.
"It's important that we continue to accumulate points in the table," Lights FC midfielder Alex Mendoza said. "You have to give them credit. They made some great saves in the second half. We have a couple more games against them, and we can learn off of this."
Some gusting winds cutting through the Las Vegas valley made a difference, both positive and negative, for both teams. In the first half, Reno 1868 FC (0-1-1, 1 point) was able to take advantage of winds at their backs and control most of the possessions.
Still, despite the difficulties provided by Mother Nature, Lights FC (1-0-1, 4 points) broke through first in the match.
It was Mendoza who scored just minutes after subbing into the game for the second week in a row. This time, a corner kick from Carlos Alvarez caused wild traffic in front of the net, and Mendoza corralled it, struck from just outside the box and found the back of the net to put Lights FC up 1-0.
He drew a yellow card for it, but still got the Supporters Section going crazy when he lifted his jersey and "smiled for the cameras" with the emoji on the underside of the club's signature home kits.
"That was a yellow card for the owner Brett Lashbrook," Lights FC Technical Director Chelís joked afterwards.
However, Reno 1868 FC equalized just a minute later, and it just happened to come from straight on by former UNLV standout Danny Musovski, who was making his first professional start on his hometown pitch.
In a hotly contested second half, Lights FC had not only the wind in its favor, but also the majority of the chances. Several came close, but Reno 1868 FC goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski played the role of hero, poking away several would-be scores with a variety of athletic displays.
The most heart-racing of those chances came in the closing seconds of stoppage time - the 95th minute - when another Alvarez corner kick was perfectly on-target, and a Juan Carlos Garcia header was poked away up high - a chance which would have provided a goal that would have not soon been forgotten.
"I thank the fans who came, all of them," Chelís said. "The truth is that we lost two points."
What would have been the most dramatic 3-point gain imaginable instead was still a point in the Western Conference standings. The 9,019 in attendance were entertained throughout by an up-and-down match, and Lights FC players wouldn't mind performing in front of a similar audience next time out - Next Saturday night vs. Swope Park Rangers at 8 p.m.
Tickets for that match are still available, starting at just $15 at LightsFC.com/SingleTix.
"We're excited to have this type of support from our fans," Mendoza said. "It hurts a little bit to tie a game we felt like we had a chance to win. We want to make sure we continue to perform at the highest level for them."