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A night of firsts for Las Vegas Lights FC couldn’t have come at a better time.
For the first time this season, Lights FC scored four goals in a match.
For the first time this season – starting together at forward on Saturday night - Freddy Adu and Sammy Ochoa found the back of the net.
For the first time this season, Lights FC got to award $100 in Plaza Hotel & Casino poker chips to its players at Cashman Field for 3+ goals scored in a winning effort.
It all added up to a much-needed 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in front of 5,712 jubilant fans in Downtown Las Vegas.
“What we did today was the thing that made us successful in the first four games – Being brave,” Lights FC Technical Director Chelís said. “After four, six, eight weeks without obtaining the results, receiving the support of the players is what I appreciate the most. They motivated themselves, and today they put it in the field all by themselves. They were really convinced that returning to the basics of winning duels and competing and challenging is in our DNA.”
Overall, the action on the pitch looked even based on the final stats, with Lights FC (3-4-4, 13 points) winning 52.7% of the game’s duels and controlling possession for 50.9% of the contest. But the eye test showed that the hosts were the far more aggressive side.
From the opening minute, Lights FC tried to put Switchbacks FC (5-7-2, 17 points) on its heels. Eric Avila and Matt Thomas aggressively worked the perimeters on the attack, sending crosses through the box repeatedly and setting up plenty of offensive chances.
After a handful of near-misses, the breakthrough came through from distance in the 24th minute. From 25 yards out on the left side, Carlos Alvarez sent a long ball to the far post, which just snuck inside past Steward Ceus and to the back of the net for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.
The connections to the front began to pile up fast in the second half, though.
In the 47th minute, off of a long throw-in, a flick inside set up Freddy Adu, who elevated and struck with his left foot to drive him his first goal as a member of Lights FC – on his 29th birthday, to boot.
Twelve minutes later, it was Sammy Ochoa’s turn, as Raul Mendiola, just moments after checking in for his Lights FC debut, fired a centering pass to set up Ochoa’s header that scored just under the cross bar. It was a relieving goal for the stalwart forward, who has had several near-misses to this point in 2018.
“I think I was doing the right things (all along),” Ochoa said. “I knew I was going to get crosses in (tonight), I just had to make the movements. Second half, I got that other chance and finished it, and I’ll just go from there.”
Added Chelís on the Ochoa-Adu duo up front: “We have done that already some weeks ago, but it wasn’t the same. Freddy five weeks ago to Freddy today, he’s understanding that he must move around Sammy to get plays, get balls. That’s exactly how that score happened. Freddy playing near Samuel, he can score.”
The cherry on top came from Las Vegas born and raised local Matt Thomas, scoring his first Cashman Field goal of the season in the first minute of added time late, capping the 4-1 result with a powerful left-footed strike from up close.
After several frustrating weeks, the sense of relief and excitement for what could be ahead washed over the atmosphere to close out the night, complete with the extravagant handing out of the $100 Plaza chips to each player.
Ochoa hopes it’s not the last time this scene is had at Cashman Field in 2018, with 10 regular season home dates remaining.
“I’m going to save them until the end of the season, see how many we can get – That’s a nice little extra bonus,” he said. “I’m happy to put (a goal) away, but at the end of the day, we got the three points. That’s what we were looking for.”
Lights FC returns to the pitch on Wednesday, June 13, when it hits the road for the first of three showdowns this season with Phoenix Rising FC at 7:30 p.m. Then, the club returns home on Saturday, June 16, for an 8 p.m. match-up at Cashman Field with Seattle Sounders 2. Tickets for that match start at just $15 at LightsFC.com.
Lights FC midfielder Carlos Alvarez (in yellow) collects his $100 in Plaza Hotel & Casino chips following the team's 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)