On what should be a festive and energy-filled Saturday night at Cashman Field for Lights FC's second-to-last home match of 2018, the club is looking to send fans home with a win to celebrate as a cherry on top.
Saturday at 8 p.m., the first Bobblehead Night in club history goes down in Downtown Las Vegas. The first 5,000 fans through the gates (which open at 7 p.m.) for Lights FC vs. OKC Energy FC will receive a bobblehead of mascot "Cash the Soccer Rocker."
Saturday's match comes on the heels of a high-scoring affair just a few nights prior for Lights FC, as it kicked off a 2-home match week on Wednesday with a heartbreaker of a result in a 5-3 loss to first place Orange County SC.
As was the case last Saturday in a 3-3 draw against in-state rival Reno 1868 FC, Lights FC continued to show strong resolve during this closing stretch of its inaugural season. Against Reno, the club at three different points faced 1-goal deficits. And all three times, it found a way to equalize.
On Wednesday night, after OCSC flexed its muscle early to build a 2-0 first half lead, Lights FC not only found a way to rally and even the score before the half, but even took a 3-2 lead early in the second stanza.
Overall, it was encouraging for Head Coach Isidro Sánchez, but he has no desire to just settle for his team showing guts.
He wants wins to close out 2018, and Saturday provides a prime opportunity.
"It will be a lot of new faces - Everyone has the same opportunity," Sánchez said following Wednesday's match. "There's a 23-man roster, and everyone deserves the opportunity to show what they have and that they want to be here."
Sánchez began the mixing-and-matching with his lineup in Wednesday's match, and it figures to continue Saturday, having used training sessions on Thursday and Friday to sort things out via competition.
Energy FC (11-14-6, 39 points) comes to Las Vegas having just this week been eliminated from USL Western Conference playoff contention. While Lights FC (7-16-7, 28 points) finds itself in the same boat, it's not playing like a team with nothing on the line beyond mid-October.
The goal now is to turn that attitude into as many points on the final table as possible with four matches remaining.
Lights FC's Raul Mendiola attacks during a 3-goal performance in the first meting with OKC Energy FC on July 11, 2018. (CREDIT: OKC Energy FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT:
LOOKING BACK AT THE FIRST MEETING: The highest-scoring match Lights FC has been involved in in 2018 took place in the first meeting with OKC Energy FC, back on July 11. Lights FC dropped the decision in that mid-week match, 6-4, but came away with a significant individual accomplishment, as Raul Mendiola recorded the first Hat Trick in club history. Including those three goals, Mendiola enters Saturday's rematch as the club's leading scorer with nine goals since joining as a midseason signee.
OFFENSIVE ATTACK LOOKS TO STAY HOT: Following a tough late-summer offensive stretch, marked by bad bounces and missed opportunities, Lights FC's offensive attack has come to life in the past week, with six goals in its last two matches combined. Lights FC out-shot both Reno 1868 FC last Saturday and Orange County SC on Wednesday, and is tied for third in the league with 452 shots in 30 matches this season.
MENDIOLA HONORED FOLLOWING 2-GOAL PERFORMANCE: After scoring two of Lights FC's three goals in Saturday's draw at Reno 1868 FC, Raul Mendiola earned USL Team of the Week honors for the second time this season after joining the club midseason. His first came after the July 11 Hat Trick in OKC.
DISCIPLINE UPDATES: Lights FC will be without forward Sammy Ochoa Saturday night, as he serves a mandatory one-match accumulation suspension following his fifth yellow card of the season in Wednesday's match. Meanwhile midfielder Carlos Alvarez returns after serving a similar suspension on Wednesday.
INJURY UPDATES: Lights FC enters play on Saturday night with no injuries, and a full complement of players available.
Lights FC's Rafael Garcia (25) and teammates celebrate a goal scored by Sammy Ochoa (9) during a home match vs. Orange County SC on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 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 scored his team-leading 8th and 9th goals of the 2018 season in last Saturday's draw at Reno 1868 FC, and can give instant offense whenever the ball touches his feet. Mendiola also recorded an assist on one of the season's most impressive goals - scored by Sammy Ochoa - on Wednesday night. He's proven to be an aggressive, speedy force within the attack, and others are feeding off of his energy and hunger.
Midfielder Rafael Garcia (#25), like Mendiola, is a former LA Galaxy member who has aded a veteran spark and presence for the club as a midseason addition. The 2-time MLS Cup champion has been a regular starter in the midfield since joining Lights FC, and has also brought plenty to the table in terms of igniting the offensive attack.
Midfielder Daigo Kobayashi (#44) continues to be a steadying influence on both ends of the pitch for Lights FC. As somewhat of an extension of the coaching staff on the field, Kobayashi has provided great offensive control and much more. The long-time MLS veteran and former member of the Japanese National Team has four goals and two assists in 2018.
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.
HERE IS EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF SATURDAY'S MATCH VS. OKC ENERGY FC:
- 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 5:30 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 7 p.m., with three available entrances at Cashman Field: The Main Gate, the Zappos Gate and the Stadium Corner Gate.