Each of Las Vegas Lights FC's two matches last week ended in a draw, but the similar results left the team with two entirely different feelings.
Last Monday's 0-0 result on the road at Real Monarchs SLC felt a bit like a win, after surviving more than 70 minutes while playing 10-on-11 against one of the USL Western Conference's teams. Then Saturday night, against struggling Tulsa Roughnecks FC, a 1-1 split felt like more of a missed opportunity.
Having had a chance to reset the focus and crank up the intensity in training this week, Lights FC (2-1-3, 10 points) is back on the road for Friday night's crucial 6 p.m. showdown with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (3-5-2, 11 points). So far in the 2018 USL campaign, Lights FC is 1-0-1 when playing away from Cashman Field.
It's a meeting between two teams currently in the middle of the Western Conference pack, both looking to make a big leap with three points on the table.
"Our philosophy is 'in the moment,'" Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "We think we can give a lot more. The fans, they are expecting more. The owner, he wants to see more. It's fair for us to ask the players, and for us as coaches, to give more."
The match-up should be a meeting of two hungry teams, as each has gone four matches without a 3-point result. In that stretch, Lights FC has earned three draws, while Switchbacks FC is 0-2-2.
In preparing for Switchbacks FC, oddly enough, Sánchez compares their style to that of the team Lights FC last grabbed three points from - Swope Park Rangers, who the club defeated 2-1 on March 31.
"They play with three guys in the front who are very fast, two center-backs who are very fast," he said. "If we play a fast-to-fast game, they will beat us. First, we need to dry them out, take out all their skills by simply being there and making the game tight. Then, with intelligence, we can solve it.
"It's a game we can win if we don't jump the steps. If we don't put the hard work combined with our thinking, it will be impossible to compete."
Following last week's draw with Tulsa, Sánchez promised some changes were coming, without specifying what some of those could be. Looking to spark the offensive results in the final third of the field, the team toyed with some new combinations in the front this week during training.
Also showing an expected different look this week was the defense, which for the first time this season will take the pitch Friday night without defender and captain Joel Huiqui - one of five Lights FC players to start all seven USL regular season matches to date.
Huiqui will be serving a 1-game suspension for yellow card accumulation after drawing his fifth of the season last Saturday night. In his place, the captain's armband will be worn by fellow veteran defender Marcelo Alatorre, who was the club's captain in its first preseason match back in February.
Also missing action Friday will be midfielder Matt Thomas, who started last Saturday's match, but was sent off in the 72nd minute after drawing a red card and now must serve a 1-match suspension of his own.
Instead of looking at it as a negative situation, Sánchez and the staff is hoping to draw the best out of others, as new opportunities will be there for the taking across the formation until the right combinations are found.
"Marcelo is returning (to that role), and it's a second opportunity for him," Sánchez said. "He just needs to put together all the pieces. (Joel) is the captain, the leader, but now we're returning Marcelo. When Joel returns, we have two leaders.
"The environment, by itself, gives a lot of wake-up calls."
Lights FC defender Miguel Garduño goes airborne to make a play against San Antonio FC at Cashman Field on Friday, April 27, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO FRIDAY NIGHT:
DISCIPLINE UPDATES: Aside from the 1-game suspensions being served Friday night by defender/captain Joel Huiqui (Yellow Card Accumulation) and midfielder Matt Thomas (Red Card Suspension), two other Lights FC players - goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño and defender Miguel Garduño - have four yellow cards on the season, placing them each one yellow away from a 1-game suspension.
ROSTER CHANGE: The Lights FC technical staff brought in a few new faces this week on a trial basis, but the lone official roster move made involved forward Isaac Diaz. The club and Diaz mutually parted ways this week from their loan agreement, as he was on loan this season to Lights FC from AscensoMX club Mineros de Zacatecas.
INJURY UPDATES: Missing Friday's match due to injury will be forward Juan Jose Calderon, who continues to work his way back from a lower body injury suffered in the preseason. This week, he began to add more to his workload, and eyes a full return to training in the coming weeks. Also out will be forward Juan Carlos Garcia, who suffered a lower body injury in the first half of Saturday night's match.
WHERE TO WATCH AND LISTEN: Friday's 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 within the U.S. on the ESPN+ app.
BUSY WEEK AHEAD: Following Friday's match, the team will travel back to Las Vegas Saturday morning. From there, it will immediately begin preparations for mid-week action, as Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., Lights FC will take part for the first time in the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the United States - the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. A limited number of tickets are now on sale for $15 for Wednesday night's second round meeting at UNLV's Peter Johann Soccer Field with USL Premier Developmental League club FC Tucson. From there, the team jumps right back into it three nights later, as Real Monarchs SLC pays a return visit to Cashman Field on Saturday, May 19. Tickets for next Saturday's match start at just $15, and can be purchased at LightsFC.com/SingleTix.
Lights FC goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño reacts following a play in front of the net against Tulsa Roughnecks FC last Saturday night at Cashman Field. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
Defender Miguel Garduño (#33) has flourished alongside Huiqui and Alatorre so far this season on the back line, as the 27-year-old has been a model of consistency and leads the club in defensive clearances (57) and duels won (56).
Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (#7) leads Lights FC in goals (3) and assists (2) through seven games this season, wearing multiple hats within the offensive attack. While the offense has yet to consistently click on all cylinders, Alvarez has been the team's steadying force in the middle of the field.
Goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño (#1) tamed his play some following an up-and-down preseason showing, and is making fans in a hurry with his more controlled - yet still aggressive - style while manning his post. Ferriño recorded his first clean sheet of the season last Monday against Real Monarchs SLC, and is tied for third in the USL with 25 saves this season.
WHO TO KNOW FOR COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC
Defender Josh Suggs (#5) is in his third season with the club, and it's his first as the team's captain. Suggs has a goal and two assists so far this season.
Goalkeeper Moise Pouaty (#1) has started seven of 10 games this season in goal for Switchbacks FC. The 22-year-old has recorded three clean sheets.
Midfielder Luke Vercollone (#4) was the first player signed in club history, and had gotten off to a strong, creative start so far in 2018, with one goal and one assist to his credit.
Lights FC's Carlos Alvarez works upfield during action in the club's 1-1 draw last Saturday night at Cashman Field with Tulsa Roughnecks FC. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)