In a second half of the 2018 USL season filled with close calls for Las Vegas Lights FC, nothing would be more satisfying than getting on the right side of one Saturday night.
That's when, at 7 p.m., it will tangle with in-state rival Reno 1868 FC for the third and final time this season, wrapping up the inaugural Silver State Cup series.
Saturday's match will air locally on myLVTV and stream nationwide on ESPN+.
The two clubs battled to a 1-1 draw in Las Vegas back on March 24, followed by Reno taking a heartbreaking 2-1 victory on its home pitch on August 28, scoring the match-winner at the death in stoppage time.
Lights FC (7-15-6, 27 points) heads north for the last time this season with confidence, knowing it has been right there twice with Reno (12-7-9, 45 points). An added bonus to a series-ending win would be dinging Reno's playoff hopes, as it currently holds a 2-point edge on San Antonio FC for the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot.
"I think we have been generally balanced against them," Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "It's going to be a very good, interesting game. It's the same philosophy and values for us. For me, for the players, for everybody, it's important to put on a good performance.
"We have six more games to prove ourselves and how good we are. These are the first 90 minutes in which we need to prove that."
For Lights FC players, there is definitely a want to eliminate the bad taste coming from playing Reno so evenly through 180-plus minutes so far and not yet having a win to show for it.
"(The last meeting) was a hurtful loss for us, we were dominating much of the game and thought we would pull it out," midfielder and captain Carlos Alvarez said. "They scored that unfortunate goal late, and we haven't forgotten it. We need to make sure we bring that trophy and the those three points home."
Lights FC midfielder Alex Mendoza (right) fights for possession against Reno 1868 FC in the first meeting between the two clubs at Cashman Field on Saturday, March 24, 2018. (CREDIT: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT:
LOOKING BACK AT THE LAST MEETING: Lights FC is still looking to ease the sting of a 2-1 loss in Reno on August 22. It was a match in which Lights FC outshot Reno 1868 FC 19-12, and was able to equalize early in the second half after Reno took a lead in the match's opening minutes. The winner for Reno came in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, as Antoine Hoppenot found space and was able to get one into the back of the net in dramatic fashion.
SILVER STATE CUP ON THE LINE: Saturday's result will determine the first winner of the Silver State Cup, with Reno 1868 FC currently holding a 4-1 points edge from the first two meetings. Should Lights FC win Saturday night, a series of tiebreakers will come into play. In order, they are: Goal Differential, Most Goals For, Fewest Goals Against, Fewest Series Disciplinary Points, Most Series Shots On Goal, then Coin Toss. Currently, Lights FC has 52 disciplinary points in the series, while Reno 1868 FC has 43.
LIGHTS FC HAS PLENTY STILL TO COME IN SEPTEMBER: The club's most eventful month of the 2018 season still has plenty to come, as Lights FC will return home for two matches at Cashman Field next week. Full details on the month's promotions are available at LightsFC.com/September, including 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."
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: Lights FC enters play on Saturday with no injuries. Midfielder Matt Thomas returned to the Starting XI in last Sunday's home match vs. Portland Timbers 2 from a lower body injury, while forward Omar Salgado returned to training this week from a lower body injury that kept him out of that match.
Lights FC forward Raul Mendiola is introduced before the club's match at Cashman Field against Portland Timbers 2 on Sunday, Sept. 16, 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 scored his team-leading seventh goal of 2018 in the opening minutes of last Sunday's home match vs. Portland Timbers 2. He's proven to be an aggressive, speedy force within the attack, and others are feeding off of his energy and hunger.
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.
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 has put up strong numbers in 2018 with six goals and four assists to his credit, 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 continues to produce, with 88 defensive clearances, 109 duels won and 55 intercepted passes on the season.