Following some room to regroup after a pair of tough, last-second heartbreakers to close out August, Las Vegas Lights FC is coming back to the pitch on Saturday night in a big way.
At 8 p.m. at Cashman Field, a memorable night will commence. First, the action on the pitch will feature Lights FC (7-13-6, 27 points) hosting LA Galaxy II (8-13-6, 30 points) in what could be a shootout between two teams in the top half of the league in goals scored in 2018.
At halftime, one of the season's most anticipated promotions takes center stage, as 200 pre-selected Lights FC fans will chase after their individual shares of $5,000 in cash being dropped from a helicopter above the center circle. Every fan in attendance at Cashman Field will have a chance to be one of the pre-selected participants in the Helicopter Cash Drop.
"Now we have eight straight games to close the regular season (without a break), and that's almost 25% of our season - It's a lot, but there are 24 total points on the line, and we have a lot of things left to accomplish," Lights FC Technical Director Chelís said. "This game in particular will be like a bet - We need to bet big and take advantage of all of our offensive opportunities."
The first meeting between the two clubs saw Galaxy II run away late with a 7-2 victory back on May 26 in Carson, Calif. - A game that was closer for much of the 90 minutes than the final score ended up indicating. The match got away from Lights FC late after it held an early lead, and trailed 3-2 at halftime.
Offense should be expected once again, and there's a good chance that a chunk of it could come courtesy of two brothers facing off for the first time as professionals.
Lights FC's Carlos Alvarez returned to the pitch for the club in late August after missing three matches, and in its 2-1 loss on the road at Reno 1868 FC last Tuesday, he scored his sixth goal of the season, tying him with Raul Mendiola for the club lead. He's been a two-way force and regular captain ever since the start of the season for the first-year club.
Meanwhile, one of Galaxy II's top scorers is Alvarez's 16-year-old brother, Efrain, who has established himself as one of the United Soccer League's top young stars in 2018 with eight goals scored. He missed the first meeting between the two clubs while training with the Mexican National Team, and now will be a focal point in the return match.
"This means a lot to our family - Especially for our parents," Carlos Alvarez said. "It shows what they're doing right, that they're giving their kids an opportunity to become what they want to be. Specifically for me, I'm just proud of him reaching the pro level at such a young age. But at the end of the day, it's most important for our team to come out and protect home turf.
"But whoever the opponent is in front of us right now, we need those three points."
Lights FC midfielder Rafael Garcia (center) celebrates his go-ahead goal against Fresno FC at Cashman Field on Saturday, August 25, 2018. (CREDIT: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT:
FORMER LA GALAXY PLAYERS CONTINUE TO SHINE IN VEGAS: Saturday's match will have extra meaning for a pair of Lights FC midseason additions who played the last several years at both the MLS and USL levels within the LA Galaxy organization. Midfielders Raul Mendiola and Rafael Garcia have continued to make a major impact. With his 63rd minute equalizer from about 25 yards out in the club's last home match on August 25, Mendiola took the team lead in goals for the season with six, which includes the first Hat Trick in club history back on July 11 in Oklahoma City. Garcia scored his first goal as a Lights FC member in that same August 25 match in the 86th minute, and has now started each of his first five matches with the club.
LIGHTS FC HAS PLENTY TO COME IN DTLV IN SEPTEMBER: Following Saturday's $5,000 Helicopter Cash Drop, the club has a robust remaining schedule of events for what should be an entertaining month at every turn. Full details on the month's promotions are available at LightsFC.com/September, including exclusive Season Ticket Member "Meet the Team" parties, the first annual Copa Lights adult soccer tournament at Cashman Field and the first Bobblehead Night in Lights FC history, taking place on Saturday, September 29. That night, to cap the month, the first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a bobblehead of Lights FC mascot "Cash the Soccer Rocker."
PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Entering September action, Lights FC remains mathematically alive still in the hunt to crack the Top 8 and make the USL Western Conference playoffs come October. At the moment, Lights FC sits 13 points outside of the No. 8 spot, with 24 remaining points available to claim in the team's eight remaining matches combined. Five of those eight games will take place at Cashman Field, where the club has consistently played its best soccer this season.
DISCIPLINE UPDATES: Lights FC will have no players suspended for Saturday's match. Midfielder Carlos Alvarez currently sits one yellow card away from having to serve a mandatory one-match accumulation suspension.
INJURY UPDATES: Listed as questionable for Saturday's match are midfielder Matt Thomas and defender Carter Manley, who are both recovering from lower body injuries.
Lights FC goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño gives instruction through pink smoke early against Phoenix Rising FC at Cashman Field on Saturday, August 18, 2018. (CREDIT: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
WHO TO KNOW FOR LIGHTS FC
Forward Raul Mendiola (#40) has quickly become a fan favorite with Lights FC as a midseason signee. The former LA Galaxy fixture's team-leading sixth goal of the season came in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Fresno FC, and was a screamer from 25 yards out that was one of the club's most impressive scores of 2018. He's proven to be an aggressive, speedy force within the attack, and others are feeding off of his energy and hunger.
Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (#7) continues to make an impact on both ends of the field, both controlling the tempo on the attack and in helping the defense in the middle of the pitch. The former No. 2 overall MLS SuperDraft pick is tied with Mendiola for the team lead in goals with six, and has three assists on the season.
Forward Omar Salgado (#8) notched his second assist of the season in the club's last home match, which goes along nicely with his two goals so far as a midseason loan addition. A sizable striker with great skills on the ball, the former No. 1 overall MLS SuperDraft pick also plays with a fire that has been on display from the first time he took the pitch with the club.
Goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño (#1) has earned a reputation as quite possibly the most unique goalkeeper in the USL in 2018. Playing a "sweeper keeper" style, the aggressive Ferriño is tied for eighth in the 33-team league with 69 saves.
HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SATURDAY'S MATCH VS. LA GALAXY II:
- Saturday’s match kicks off at 8 p.m. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, the box office will open at 12 p.m., and Will Call opens at 4:30 p.m.
- Saturday's Zappos Tailgate Party, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Cashman Field parking lot, will feature picnic-style BBQ options, beer specials, tailgate games for adults and kids, music, Lights FC merchandise and much more.
- Gates to the stadium for general public entry open at 7 p.m., with three available entrances at Cashman Field: The Main Gate, the Zappos Gate and the Stadium Corner Gate.