A lot of things about Sunday's Las Vegas Lights FC home match will be unique.
The fact that it's the first Sunday home match in club history, with an early 6 p.m. kickoff time is a start, but for many on the roster, the date means even more.
Sunday is Mexican Independence Day - An occasion near and dear to many who will be suiting up when Lights FC (7-14-6, 27 points) takes on USL Western Conference foe Portland Timbers 2 (15-11-3, 48 points) at Cashman Field.
"It is a really important day for my country, and for me, too," defender Miguel Garduño said. "I feel really proud to be playing, to be on the field. It's a good feeling for everyone on the team. I feel really proud to be a Mexican and to be playing here on this day."
Festivities on Saturday will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the free Zappos Tailgate Party just outside of Cashman Field. The Tailgate Party - and the night as a whole - will feature several Mariachi performances to help celebrate the holiday, and post-match, fans are welcomed onto the pitch for a red, white and green fireworks show. Tickets for Sunday's match start at just $15, and can be purchased at LightsFC.com/September.
Sunday's match will also air locally on myLVTV and stream nationwide on ESPN+.
On top of the planned festivities, Lights FC wants to close out the weekend celebrating a season sweep of one of the Western Conference's top clubs. The two first met back on July 22, with Lights FC pulling off an impressive 2-1 upset victory.
The club's offensive attack has remained aggressive as the season now begins to wind to a close, and is looking for the results to show for it.
Saturday night, Lights FC suffered a 2-1 defeat on its home pitch to LA Galaxy II, but the statistics told a story different than the one given on the scoreboard.
Lights FC out-shot its visitors last weekend 27-13, controlled more than 60% of possession in the match and won more than 55% of the duels. But instead of a wave of goals as a result, the coaching staff was left to lament a wave of near-misses on its scoring chances.
With seven matches - and 21 available points - remaining on the regular season schedule, Lights FC currently sits 16 points outside of the Western Conference's Top 8. The club not only will need wins, but some help, if it hopes to pull off a stunning run to close 2018. It all starts with finding the back of the net for a team that prides itself on aggressive, relentless attacking.
"I think we just need to get that last pass in the final third, improve it, improve our finishing," said forward Omar Salgado, who scored his third goal of the season in the defeat. "We've had little mistakes we've made. We just need to refine those. We'll get better from it."
Lights FC forward Omar Salgado celebrates his first goal of 2018 in a 2-1 victory over Portland Timbers 2 on Sunday, July 22, 2018. (CREDIT: Portland Timbers 2)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SUNDAY NIGHT:
LOOKING BACK AT THE FIRST MEETING: Lights FC's win over Portland Timbers 2 back on July 22 at Providence Park was one of the club's most complete performances to date. In the match, Lights FC showed resiliency, after losing a 1-0 lead early in the second half. The club responded by holding off a wave of Timbers 2 attacks, and ultimately scoring the go-ahead goal in the 74th minute. It was done by Omar Salgado, who scored his first goal with the team as a mid-season addition, firing a rocket on a free kick attempt through a wall of defenders.
LIGHTS FC HAS PLENTY STILL TO COME IN SEPTEMBER: The club's most eventful month of the 208 season still has plenty to come beyond Sunday night. Full details on the month's promotions are available at LightsFC.com/September, including the second Season Ticket Member "Meet the Team" party next Tuesday evening, 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."
LIGHTS FC ROSTER UPDATES: This week, Lights FC is without defender Carter Manley, who was called back on his loan from Major League Soccer's Minnesota United FC for a week. He played for the club Wednesday night, and will be returning to Las Vegas next week. Also returning from a month-long loan to Sacramento Republic FC in time for Sunday's match is goalkeeper Thomas Olsen.
DISCIPLINE UPDATES: Lights FC will have no players suspended for Sunday'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 Sunday's match is midfielder Matt Thomas, who continues to work back from a lower body injury.
Lights FC defender Joel Huiqui fights for possession against LA Galaxy II at Cashman Field on Saturday, September 8, 2018. (CREDIT: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
WHO TO KNOW FOR LIGHTS FC
Forward Omar Salgado (#8) has made a quick impact with the club as a midseason addition, with three goals and two assists already to his credit. 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.
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 a 2-2 draw with Fresno FC on August 25, 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 for the club lead in both goals (6) and assists (4), and has been a regular in the Captain's role this season.
Defender Joel Huiqui (#3) remains a stabilizing veteran presence for Lights FC on the back line. The long-time Liga MX and Mexican National Team veteran leads the club with 89 defensive clearances and 54 intercepted passes on the season.
HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SUNDAY'S MATCH VS. PORTLAND TIMBERS 2:
- Sunday’s match kicks off at 6 p.m. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, the box office will open at 12 p.m., and Will Call opens at 2:30 p.m.
- Sunday's Zappos Tailgate Party, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the Cashman Field parking lot, will feature 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 5 p.m., with three available entrances at Cashman Field: The Main Gate, the Zappos Gate and the Stadium Corner Gate.