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An intense, physical match Saturday night at Cashman Field between Las Vegas Lights FC and Sacramento Republic FC ended in a 1-1 draw, in front of a passionate crowd of 8,167.
The final score was fitting of a match filled with eight yellow cards.
Despite the choppy pace of play, Lights FC (2-0-2, 8 points) remains unbeaten in United Soccer League play.
"We are the most yellow carded team (in USL) - Why? Because we are the most intense," Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "So there is a very thin line between being intense and being on time, and being intense and being a second late. All the plays, how we train, how we live, it's the personality of (Technical Director Chelís). You can analyze all the yellow cards, we're only playing the ball, only a bit late."
However, in the opening minutes, it looks like a match that had the makings of a barnburner.
Lights FC started the scoring just 85 seconds into the match - oddly enough, only the SECOND-fastest goal the team has scored in four games season. That's when, after a Carlos Alvarez corner kick, Miguel Garduño headed the ball across the box, where it found a ready Joel Huiqui. The veteran defender dove forward and headed in his second goal of the season.
"Almost all of the set pieces, we train on those a lot and can take advantage of them a lot," Huiqui said. "I'm looking for the second ball, so on set pieces, if I want to add something, I can measure it. Everyone has a specific thing to do."
Lights FC had a couple of near-misses in an effort to extend the lead before the half, including another header up close from Huiqui and a right-footed rocket from former Sacramento Republic FC standout Sammy Ochoa, which just missed wide left.
It was another stellar outing all around for Huiqui. After being named to the USL Team of the Week following the club's last match, Saturday night he also contributed 7 of the 21 defensive clearances registered by the starting trio of defenders - himself, Garduño and Marco Cesar Jaime Jr.
The Lights FC offense also got an added spark in the opening stanza in the much-anticipated debut of Freddy Adu, who created two scoring chances off of 17 touches before subbing off in the second half.
"He is improving a lot - He had almost 14 months without starting a pro game," Sánchez said. "We had a long offseason with him. The quality characteristic, it's impossible for him to lose that.Today, we decided he was an option to play. We were trying to be much more offensive."
Sacramento (3-0-2, 11 points) was finally able to break through in the 57th minute, when Christian Eissele found the back of the net past Lights FC keeper Ricardo Ferriño, who was once again stellar in manning his post.
"Obviously, we were looking for the win, the three points," Huiqui said. "But we're in the right way. We made a good match."
Now comes an unusual challenge - balancing a second week without a match before the calendar even reaches May.
Lights FC had two weeks to prepare for this match, and now finds itself in that position again before a Friday, April 27 home match vs. San Antonio FC begins a stretch of three matches in eight days. That 8-day run also features a home match vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC on May 5, with plenty of soon-to-be-announced Cinco de Mayo fan activations planned. For single game tickets to those and all 2018 home matches, starting at just $15, visit LightsFC.com/SingleTix.
"It was an uncommon beginning (to our season schedule), now we have another week off - The last week off, we handled it very, very bad," Sánchez said. "We need to try new things in this week off, because after this, we have a lot of games continuously, and this is the last time in the season we'll have an (extended) rest period."