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MATCH PREVIEW & NOTES: LIGHTS FC HOSTS SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC IN KEY USL WESTERN CONFERENCE SHOWDOWN

By Ryan Greene, 04/12/18, 1:15PM PDT

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Cashman Field will be rocking Saturday at 8 p.m., as two undefeated clubs go head-to-head in pivotal early season match.

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:

 

  • INJURY UPDATES: Forward Juan Jose Calderon (lower body injury) will be out of action Saturday night. Both midfielder Daigo Kobayashi (lower body injury) and forward Isaac Diaz (lower body injury) are listed as questionable. Also questionable is defender Jorge Guillen-Torres (lower body injury), who has been sidelined since before the club's first preseason match after impressing in early scrimmage play. This week, he returned to full-speed training with the club.

 

  • RESERVES CONTINUE TO BUILD PRESSURE: While still tweaking things and trying to find a consistent Starting XI, the Lights FC coaching staff is continuing to demand the most of everyone on the roster - especially those who have not seen the consistent playing time during games to this point. Several guys, including midfielders Freddy Adu and Sebastian Hernandez, are rounding into form within that group. "We are trying to keep everyone confident and create a competitive environment," Sánchez said. "The job of the coaching staff is to push them. The starters, if they don't look back and see players putting pressure on them, they relax."

 

  • SÁNCHEZ EARNS USL HONORS: Isidro Sánchez on Wednesday was named the USL Coach of the Month for March, after helping lead the team to its undefeated start alongside Technical Director Chelís. "The difficult part is not getting to the top of the mountain - The tough part is staying there," Sánchez said. "Now that we have shown who we are, it's important to maintain it. We have to improve, be creative, be more convincing. This honor is more than a prize - It's a challenge for this coaching staff and this team. This is just the beginning for us."

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 LIGHTS FC

 

  • Defender Joel Huiqui (#3) has worn the Captain's armband in each of the club's first two regular season matches, anchoring the back line. The Mexican National Team veteran has taken on a leadership role early on within the club. He was named to the USL's Team of the Week following his impressive performance against Swope Park Rangers.

 

  • Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (#7) has been one of the club's top performers to start its inaugural season, with a goal and two assists in three matches. His goal was the equalizer two weeks ago in the win against Swope Park Rangers.

 

  • Goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño (#1) continues to steady his overall play in goal, and last time out put on a well-rounded, aggressive performance against Swope Park, helping stymie an offensive attack that entered the match as the highest scoring outfit in the league.

 

WHO TO KNOW FOR SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC

 

  • Midfielders Keven Alemán (#10) and Villyan Bijev (#20) help facilitate much of Sacramento's efficient offensive attack, and both have caught the eyes of the Lights FC coaching staff in preparations for Saturday.

 

  • Forward Cameron Iwasa (#31) leads the club with two goals scored in its first four matches.

HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SATURDAY’S MATCH VS. SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC:

  • Saturday’s match kicks off at 8 p.m. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, the box office will open at 12 p.m., and Will Call opens at 4:30 p.m.

 

  • The expanded Zappos Tailgate Party, featuring Lights FC's own "Cash the Soccer Rocker," live music, a variety of food trucks, an experiential beer garden from Motley Brews and tailgate games for both kids and adults begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Cashman parking lot. The Zappos Tailgate is FREE for fans to attend.

 

 

WHERE TO WATCH AND LISTEN

 

  • The match will air locally on myLVTV. myLVTV is available locally over the air (Channel 21), on COX (Channel 12, 1012 in HD), on Centurylink (Channel 21) and on DirecTV (Channel 21). It will also stream live on the ESPN+ app.

 

  •  The Spanish-language radio broadcast takes place on ESPN Deportes 1460 AM, and can be streamed live at LVSportsNetwork.com.