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HOME > SPORTS > Sports Desk > Lights FC, Swope Park Rangers battle for position atop USL Western Conference standings

Lights FC, Swope Park Rangers battle for position atop USL Western Conference standings

30 March 2018

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Last Saturday night, the Lights FC coaching staff looked at a 1-1 draw vs. in-state rival Reno 1868 FC as a loss of two points, rather than the gain of one point in the early season USL Western Conference standings.

The main reason for the glass-half-empty outlook was the amount of unfinished scoring opportunities the club compiled in the second half, while playing with the whipping winds at Cashman Field in its favor and a one-man advantage for the final 20 minutes.

This Saturday night, the league's highest-scoring outfit and two-time defending Western Conference champions — Swope Park Rangers — comes to town for an 8 p.m. start on Lights FC's home turf.

Single-game tickets are available and start at just $15, with the first 5,000 fans to enter receiving a print of the 2018 Lights FC team photo, sponsored by Denny's and photographed with permission at The Neon Museum, Las Vegas. To purchase, call 702.728.4625 or visit LightsFC.com/SingleTix.

The numbers on each side to this point show that there could be goals galore come Saturday night, but that can't happen for the home club without finishing those similar opportunities that were lost a week ago.

"The main thing is just controlling what we can control — I feel like we're there, it's just pushing the ball in," Lights FC midfielder Carlos Alvarez said. "We were a little unlucky this past weekend, but me personally, I'm a big believer of you create your own luck, so it's just pushing the ball to the net and finishing.

"I feel like we have a great group, and we haven't lost. If you see the table, we're in third place. Any team will take that (after two games) right away. It's about being positive and continuing to work."

Swope Park (2-0-0, 6 points) has scored eight goals in two matches, including four off the foot of 25-year-old forward Kharlton Belmar. Meanwhile, the statistical trends indicate that Lights FC (1-0-1, 4 points) could be due for an offensive breakout.

After scoring three goals on only nine shots on goal in a season-opening win at Fresno FC, Lights FC battled through windy conditions last Saturday in the home opener to create 19 shots on goal, with only one ball finding the back of the net. The incomplete opportunities were highlighted by a header by Juan Carlos Garcia in the final seconds of added time, which was turned away via a highlight-worthy save by Reno's JT Marcinkowski.

"I think it's just a matter of time before the guys up top get going and start scoring some goals," said Lights FC forward Sammy Ochoa, who had six of those 19 shots last Saturday night. "This is going to be a good game, I don't think it's going to be 0-0. There will be a lot of goals, and hopefully we come out on top."

Completing those balls targeted into the middle in front of the goal has been a primary focus for the club throughout the week.

With friendlier weather conditions than last week expected in Downtown Las Vegas on Saturday night, the club is out to reward the loyalty of the fans, who have consistently shown up for the team's first four matches at Cashman Field.

After drawing a crowd of 9,019 for the showdown with Reno last Saturday, the team is now averaging more than 8,000 fans per match over its first four home dates, including its three preseason games vs. Major League Soccer competition.

"We have a very good opportunity. There are people taking notice of what we're doing, and we're doing it competitively, "Lights FC head coach Isidro Sánchez said. "When the players arrive (to Cashman Field), they see the crowd and they realize really quick that 'Oh, this is important,' and (the fans) deserve something great. Everything gets bigger to us when we see them at the stadium, because this is all for them."

9,019 fans packed Cashman Field for last Saturday's regular season home opener vs. Reno 1868 FC.

Lights FC notes heading into Saturday night:
INJURY UPDATES: Defender Jorge Guillen-Torres (lower body injury) and forward Juan Jose Calderon (lower body injury) will both be out of action Saturday night. Meanwhile, midfielder Daigo Kobayashi (lower body injury), and forward Isaac Diaz (lower body injury) are listed as questionable.

FRIENDLIER CONDITIONS EXPECTED: After playing its first four home matches in chilly conditions, with heavy winds affecting both the preseason and regular season home openers, warmer and calmer conditions are expected Saturday night, as high temperatures in Las Vegas during the day should peak in the mid-80s.

EARLY STATISTICAL STANDOUTS: As a result of the team's strong start out of the gates, a couple of Lights FC players find themselves near the top of the USL league individual statistical ranks. Carlos Alvarez is currently second in the league in offensive chances created, trailing only Fresno FC's Juan Pablo Caffa, who has played three games to Alvarez's two. Alvarez is also tied for second in the league with two assists. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño is tied for second in the league with 10 saves through two matches.

TEAM CHEMISTRY BUILDING FAST: The chemistry the Lights FC players have created off the field in just a short time together is showing on the pitch. According to midfielder Alex Mendoza, it is not a fluke. "We all have the same drive, the same mentality and that’s very important," Mendoza said. "There have been times on other teams I’ve been on where the locker room gets divided, or there are major off-field issues. I think it’s the way the coaching staff runs things here. Chelís has talked to us about how we’re here because we’re good people, and I’d agree with him 100%."

CUELLAR LENDS A HELPING HAND: Adding some unique assistance on the practice field for Lights FC over the last couple of weeks has been Mexico Women's National Team standout Renae Cuellar - the wife of midfielder Carlos Alvarez. Cuellar, who played for Mexico in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, was named on Wednesday to Mexico's 21-player roster to face the United States Women's National Team in April friendlies. "She's here because of her level she's played at," Alvarez said. "I come, I work and I tell her 'We're teammates in the field.' It's a blessing to see how far she's come since I met her. I keep supporting her in everything. She wants to make another World Cup and hopefully that dream comes true."

Midfielder Alex Mendoza (right) celebrates his 27th minute goal with defender Marco Cesar Jaime during last week's 1-1 draw vs. Reno 1868 FC at Cashman Field. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)

Who to know for Lights FC:
Midfielder Alex Mendoza (#14) has established himself as the club's "super sub" through two matches. The team's leading goal scorer out of the gates, he's scored in each game so far, doing so both times just minutes after checking in.

Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (#7) the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Chelís with Chivas USA, Alvarez is off to a hot start for Lights FC as a facilitator on the offensive end. Along with nine chances created through two matches, Alvarez completed an impressive 80.6 percent of his 30 passes last week against Reno.

Defender Joel Huiqui (#3) has worn the Captain's armband in each of the club's first two regular season matches, anchoring the back line. The Mexican National Team veteran has taken on a leadership role early on within the club.

Defender Miguel Garduño (#33) has been equally effective on the back line through two matches, leading the club with 29 defensive clearances and having won 17 of 31 duels.

Who to know for Swope Park Rangers:
Forward Kharlton Belmar (#90) scored an eye-popping 14 goals in 28 appearances for Swope Park Rangers in 2017, while also spending some time with Sporting Kansas City. A second round selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by the Portland Timbers, he's continued his ways so far this year, with a league-high four goals in the club's first two matches.

Forward Hadji Barry (#92) is another skilled player with success at the USL level, scoring 14 goals in 29 appearances last season for Orlando City B. This year, he already has notched three assists in two matches.

Here is everything else you need to know ahead of Saturday's match vs. Swope Park Rangers:
Saturday’s match kicks off at 8 p.m. For on-site ticket purchase at Cashman Field, the box office will open at 10 a.m., and Will Call opens at 4:30 p.m.

The first 5,000 fans in attendance Saturday night will receive a FREE print of the club's 2018 team photo, sponsored by Denny's. The unique team photo was shot with permission at The Neon Museum, Las Vegas.

Media credential on-site pick-up and entry begins at 5 p.m. Credentials can be picked up at Media Check-In, located at the Zappos Gate. For all other media-related inquiries, please visit our Media Center.

The expanded Zappos Tailgate Party, featuring Lights FC's own "Cash the Soccer Rocker," live music, a variety of food trucks, an experiential beer garden from Motley Brews and tailgate games for both kids and adults begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Cashman parking lot. The Zappos Tailgate is FREE for fans to attend.

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.

Where to watch and listen:
The match will stream live worldwide at Youtube.com/USL, and on the LightsFC.com homepage.

The Spanish-language radio broadcast takes place on ESPN Deportes 1460 AM, and can be streamed live at LVSportsNetwork.com.

Lights FC 2018 ticket info:
Single-game tickets for all USL regular season matches, starting 24 March at Cashman Field vs. in-state rival Reno 1868 FC, are now on sale, starting at just $15. Purchase today by visiting LightsFC.com/SingleTix or by calling 702.728.GOAL (4625) during regular business hours. Tickets are also available for purchase at all La Bonita Supermarket locations in the Las Vegas valley.

Lights FC 2018 season tickets are also still on sale, starting at just $160 for the remaining 16 home-match schedule. Each season ticket purchased includes a free team jersey (valued at $80). Ticket for groups of 10 or more are also now on sale, starting at just $18 per ticket, with each ticket purchased including a free Lights FC scarf (valued at $20). For more ticketing inquiries, visit LightsFC.com.


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