Carlos Alvarez is mobbed by teammates while celebrating his 53rd minute goal in Lights FC's 2-1 victory over Swope Park Rangers at Cashman Field on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
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The first home win in Las Vegas Lights Football Club came in a fashion almost too fitting of the build-up to Saturday's result.
Carlos Alvarez's game-tying goal in the 53rd minute, plus an own goal for visiting Swope Park Rangers in the 71st minute that Alvarez helped force, both came in front of the club's passionate Supporters Section.
All seven goals Lights FC has scored at home this season have come at that end of Cashman Field, but none were as important as these two, as they helped complete a 2-1 victory - the first on home turf in club history.
The victory came in front of another strong home crowd of 7,888 in Downtown Las Vegas, and vaulted Lights FC (2-0-1, 7 points) into a tie for first place in the United Soccer League (USL) Western Conference standings as the team heads into an early season bye week.
"At the very beginning of the week and this game, we spoke about how this was a big opportunity - It was like a train that wouldn't return again," Lights FC head coach Isidro Sánchez said. "We were facing the (USL's leading scoring team), in our home, after a very good week of training. All the best characters and players, they take advantage of these opportunities. As a coach, I'm very proud of my players."
Swope Park Rangers (2-1-0, 6 points) had scored a league-high eight goals in its first two matches, and appeared to be on its way to forcing a high-scoring affair early on.
They struck first at the 18-minute mark, as captain Rodrigo Saravia put a snipe past Ricardo Ferriño - the lone blemish on an excellent night for the Lights FC goalkeeper.
Ferriño made several key stops, including many while diving out of the box and sacrificing his body, to help preserve the score and keep Lights FC in range.
He did so long enough for his teammates to rally and find the net themselves.
Alvarez's goal came after he found some space in traffic off of a throw-in play from the left side, as he found enough daylight to fire a strike into the right side of the net past Swope Park keeper Eric Dick.
"That first goal, it was from the whole team - It was not just my goal, I got the plus, but it was a team play," Alvarez said. "I got the rebound and that's how it went. We executed a play we usually do. That comes from the coaching staff."
Scoring in front of the Supporters Section forced an eruption in the Cashman Field stands.
"They're the 12th man, today they were big out there - You felt the 12th man on the field," he added.
The own goal came 18 minutes later, as Alvarez battled Swope Park's Colton Storm in a one-on-one while heading towards the net. Storm tried to push the ball away, but instead caught Eric Dick off-guard, putting Lights FC ahead.
From there, the hosts had to buckle down and hold off a furious Swope Park attack, which continued through five minutes of added time.
"These guys would die on the field for each other, that's the brotherhood and the family we have here, since the preseason," Alvarez said. "In the second half, you saw the competition, we scored, we were smart and at the end of the day, we were still pushing because we wanted that third goal."
Ferriño was only credited with two saves on the night, but left his post with conviction several times to meet Swope Park attackers outside of the box and stymie scoring opportunities.
"We have seen a big change (in him)," Sánchez said. "All our work, with him learning in the preseason, he has to play as a gentleman in the goal. He doesn't need to do silly things. Ferriño as a gentleman is spectacular."
Lights FC's record out of the gates is pretty spectacular, as well, as they are now a part of a 5-way tie in the points column atop the Western Conference standings, with seven points accrued in three games.
They won't get another chance to build on that until Saturday, April 14, when Sacramento Republic FC - one of those four others with seven points - comes to town for an 8 p.m. showdown at Cashman FIeld.
"I was hoping to get four of the nine points (in the first three games)," Sánchez said. "In the second game, we were getting a little bit closer, and this game, even closer to the type of play we want. I'm very happy with the development of this team."