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Following a 0-0 draw at Real Monarchs SLC on Monday that felt like a small victory, a 1-1 draw on Saturday night against visiting Tulsa Roughnecks FC had the opposite feel for Las Vegas Lights FC.
In front of 7,777 fans who showed up for a Cinco de Mayo soccer party at Cashman Field, Lights FC (2-1-4, 10 points) added another point to its total on the USL Western Conference table, but felt as if it left two more behind.
"We have a big debt to the fans, and I spoke hard with my players in the beginning, at halftime and with (Technical Director) Chelís just right now," Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "Today, we had it, we smelled it and we dropped it - the opportunity.
"Today was the clearest example that we have to take these opportunities."
Tulsa (0-3-4, 4 points) came in as a struggling outfit, while Lights FC entered with tons of momentum off of maybe its grittiest effort to date just 5 days earlier in Utah.
To boot, the atmosphere at Cashman Field to start the night was as strong as it has been all season. The Supporters Section had several tributes to Chelís - who watched the game from the club level deck located above them - while the players paid homage during starting introductions to the brave warriors who defended Mexico in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, giving Cinco de Mayo its true meaning.
Lights FC came out of the gates with maybe its most consistent, aggressive first half offensive attack of the season, creating pressure from all angles.
Especially impressive early and often was Isaac Diaz, who created all kinds of issues for the Tulsa Roughnecks FC defense down the right wing.
His work paid off early, too, as he sent a beautiful ball to the middle in the 15th minute, which found Carlos Alvarez in the left side of the box. From there, Alvarez headed in his third goal of the season, igniting the crowd even further.
"The first seven minutes, maybe the best seven minutes we've played all season," Sánchez said. "We won the ball in the defensive side, created shots, crosses.
"Then, we lost our humility."
Tulsa was far from defeated early, and found a way to equalize just before the half, which was when Las Vegas native and UNLV alum Joaquin Rivas collected a pass on the left side of the goal, and fired a shot past Lights FC keeper Ricardo Ferriño - his lone major blemish in an otherwise solid performance.
Though the attack had a tough time staying sharp, the intensity was still there all night for Lights FC. And that also cost the team.
Drawing his fifth yellow card of the season was defender and captain Joel Huiqui, who must now serve a mandatory 1-match suspension in the club's next outing.
Then, in the 72nd minute, while giving an extra effort to regain possession, Matt Thomas was issued a red card, forcing the team to go 10-on-11 for more than 20 minutes to close the night.
Still, there were a handful of chances created late, including another clean look for Alvarez and a header in close from Marco Cesar Jaime Jr. But Tulsa keeper Fabian Cerda was able to ensure his club headed home with a point.
While it was the sixth time in seven tries this regular season in which Lights FC earned at least a point in the standings, the team is clearly looking to make some major leaps in the Western Conference standings soon and avoid falling behind from the pack.
Sánchez hinted that the team could look to shake some things up within the roster before it next takes the pitch, which will be Friday at 6 p.m. back on the road at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (3-5-2, 11 points). That match will stream live on the new ESPN+ app.
Following the trip to Colorado, the team will have a unique week to follow, including its opener in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, played at UNLV on Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. The club's opening opponent will be determined this week, and tickets unclaimed by season ticket members will go on sale later this week, as well.
The next match at Cashman Field comes on Saturday, May 19, against the same Real Monarchs SLC club Lights FC just drew with earlier this week. That match will kick at 8 p.m., with tickets available at LightsFC.com/SingleTix.
Lights FC's Carlos Alvarez (7) goes up high to gain possession in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Cashman Field. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)