Las Vegas Lights Football Club's first "10-day week" of the 2018 season will culminate Saturday night at Cashman Field, with a crucial early season showdown on tap.
Following a weekend without a match on the schedule, Lights FC (2-0-1, 7 points) has had extra time to rest, analyze and sharpen up for an 8 p.m. meeting with Sacramento Republic FC (3-0-1, 10 points), in what is a meeting between two of the hottest squads in the United Soccer League (USL) Western Conference.
On what should be another beautiful, warm night in Downtown Las Vegas, single-match tickets are available and starting at just $15. To purchase, visit LightsFC.com/SingleTix. It will also be the club's first match to air locally on myLVTV and stream live on the new ESPN+ platform, as announced earlier this week.
"We used the first four of these 10 days to make our players aware, then this week was all about 'How can we improve on bad things and mistakes?'" said Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez. "This is the most different team of all the teams we've faced so far. They're based in the pace and technique of the game, instead of in power and speed, which is more common here in America."
In its last challenge - another meeting with a team who entered match play undefeated - Lights FC came from behind to upset 2-time defending Western Conference champion Swope Park rangers, 2-1 at Cashman Field on March 31.
With plenty of time to prep for Sacramento, the team was given Monday and Tuesday off following its big win, then it was back to work. The intensity has gradually ratcheted up leading into Saturday's match, which figures to be intense.
In attempting to combat Sacramento's skilled attack, Lights FC is hoping to tactically produce on the offensive end, as well. A major focus over the course of the "10-day week" leading into Saturday has been building the offense from the back and finishing offensive attacks.
One slight advantage Saturday night will be the absence of Sacramento defender Mitchell Taintor, who is serving a 1-game suspension following a red card ejection in last Saturday's victory against Seattle Sounders 2.
But the key piece to Lights FC accomplishing consistent offensive builds will be the play of forward Sammy Ochoa. A proven USL scorer, the 31-year-old tallied 28 goals in 71 appearances from 2015-17, including eight in 27 appearances last year with Sacramento.
Brought to Las Vegas to be a central piece in Lights FC's high-tempo offensive attack, he is still looking to get his first goal on the board, and knows it could be coming soon.
Who better to do so against than Sacramento on Saturday night?
"It's always special to play against your former teams," Ochoa said. "As a team, we are scoring. I'm not scoring, and as a forward, that's what you live off of, and I'm waiting for that chance to put one away. Teams are keeping an eye on us because we're up there (in the standings) now, still undefeated. Hopefully, we score even more goals and I can get on the board.
"(Playing forward) is a streaky job. Most forward are used to it. It can get to a point where there's pressure, but you're just waiting for that one to come, then the rest will follow."
On the other side, the Lights FC defense, which has been anchored by veteran captain Joel Huiqui through three matches, will have its hands full. Sánchez said the focus will be on containing an attack that stems from two very impressive midfielders on the perimeter - Keven Alemán and Villyan Bijev.
"They base most of their offensive play through these two guys, and their top qualities are their technique and their intelligence," Sánchez said. "We need to stay aware of that."
Also, a third straight home match is a nice advantage.
"When you play here, you can control everything," Sánchez added. "I like that my job and the players' performance is being seen by our fans. We're working hard, they enjoy that and they deserve that."
Lights FC players celebrate Carlos Alvarez's equalizing goal in a 2-1 victory over Swope Park Rangers at Cashman Field on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT:
Lights FC goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño makes a save against Swope Park Rangers on Saturday, March 31, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
WHO TO KNOW FOR SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC
HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SATURDAY’S MATCH VS. SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC:
WHERE TO WATCH AND LISTEN