***** Leer en español aquí *****
TULSA, Okla. – A wild night that included seemingly non-stop, uptempo offensive attacks and a lengthy weather delay resulted in Las Vegas Lights adding a point to its total on the USL Western Conference table via a 2-2 draw with Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
Lights FC (4-6-5, 17 points) overcame an early deficit to rally back and take a second half lead before heading home with a road point.
Lights FC looks to keep building its way back into the Western Conference playoff picture next Saturday night, when the club returns home for Salute To Service Night at Cashman Field on at 8 p.m. vs. Saint Louis FC - The lone home match of July. Tickets are currently available, starting at just $15 at LightsFC.com.
As for Saturday night, Tulsa (1-8-8, 11 points) carried the momentum over from its first victory of 2018 on Wednesday night into the opening minutes against Lights FC. On its first true offensive build of the match, a ball sent into the box made contact with Lights FC midfielder Eric Avila's hand, which resulted in a penalty kick for the hosts.
Las Vegas High School and UNLV alum Joaquin Rivas - who scored Tulsa's lone goal against Lights FC in the season's first meeting - struck again, giving the Roughnecks a 1-0 edge just four minutes into the match.
But for the better part of the first half, Lights FC controlled possession and was able to create the bulk of the offensive chances, out-shooting Tulsa in the first 45 minutes, 12-8.
They were finally able to break through in the 35th minute, when a laser of a pass was sent into the box by Christian Torres. From there, Raul Mendiola collected, spun, faked left and went right before blasting a shot to the far post past Tulsa keeper Fabian Cerda for his first goal in a Lights FC uniform.
"That was a wake-up call in a tough beginning for us," Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "We were lucky they didn't score the second one (before we scored)."
Then, the rains came.
Momentum for the visitors cooled a touch during the halftime break due to a weather delay, which included heavy rains and threats of lightning. The conditions forced halftime to last almost an hour.
Despite Tulsa showing some flash out of the break, Lights FC got the first golden scoring opportunity, via a penalty kick in the 49th minute. It was Daigo Kobayashi getting the opportunity, and he delivered his second goal in seven days and fourth of the season.
Lights FC's lead wouldn't last long as the match headed for a crazy finish.
They would get another penalty kick and a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the 62nd minute, but Sammy Ochoa's try sailed over the crossbar. Then, just a minute later, a beautiful ball into the box by Tulsa's Nemanja Vukovic was perfectly timed by Joshua Morton, who headed it in to tie the match back up, 2-2.
Lights FC was able to preserve the result in the closing minutes, which included a heroic, charging save by Ricardo Ferriño in a one-on-one chance inside the box, then a Joshua Morton missed shot from a couple of feet away from the target just a few minutes later.
Ultimately, it all added up to a second draw in as many meetings between Lights FC and Tulsa this season. Afterwards, Sánchez lauded the play of his center backs - Marco Cesar Jaime Jr., Marcelo Alatorre and Juan Herrera-Perla - for their play on a night where the back line was shortened due to injury. He also complimented Mendiola's aggressive, hungry approach on the attack throughout the match.
Lights FC comes home for next Saturday's match with Saint Louis FC before then playing six of seven matches on the road to close out the summer months.
The coaching staff has a magic number in terms of points they're targeting in order to reach the USL playoffs come October - 50 points. In order to get to that point with 19 matches remaining, starting by protecting home turf next weekend will be big.
"We let pass a big chance to win tonight," Sánchez said. "We need to win 11 times, we need 11 (more) wins. We need to be convinced of what we can do, and we need to play all of these games to win."
Lights FC's Raul Mendiola moves upfield with the ball during the first half of a 2-2 road draw on Saturday, June 30, 2018, with Tulsa Roughnecks FC. (CREDIT: Tulsa Roughnecks FC)