Match Day 7 will see San Antonio FC hit the road for the second and final game of the annual Fiesta Road Trip. For the second straight week, San Antonio will go up against a brand new USL team. We caught up with Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (@reviewjournal) to bring us some insight on the flashiest new face in USL West, Las Vegas Lights. Here we go into another edition of the Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) First of all – welcome to the USL family. We’ll ask you the same thing we asked Fresno last week – What are your initial impressions of having pro soccer in Vegas and of USL in general?
(BG) Thanks for the welcome! I think most people believed pro soccer would work in Las Vegas long before it became official, and the Lights have done nothing to prove people wrong so far. They’re fifth in the USL in average attendance and the fans have created a fun atmosphere each game at Cashman Field. So in that regard, they’ve definitely met or exceeded expectations off the field. On the field, it’s a little more complicated, as their 2-0-2 record is certainly good but I still have a lot of questions about their attack. If that doesn’t improve, that record will start to slip.
- 2 – We have to ask you guys about the team jerseys. They’re definitely……different. But it doesn’t matter what we think of them – what did the Vegas fans think of them, and did they succeed in capturing the ambiance of the city?
I’ve actually heard almost all positive things about the kits from local fans, though I think most prefer the white road ones to the black home ones with all the neon. They definitely are different, but I think that does capture the city because Las Vegas is a unique market and this team has embraced that as it keeps trying to do new things.
- 3 – There are three names on the roster that definitely catch our attention. First, you have Carlos Alvarez now. He was the first ever signing for SAFC in 2016. You have USL veteran Sammy Ochoa, formerly of the Sacramento Republic and Tulsa Roughnecks. And one Freddy Adu. Maybe you’ve heard of him. What are your impressions of these guys so far?
Carlos Alvarez I think has been without a doubt the Lights’ best player so far. He’s been a great playmaker for the team and I think reuniting with his former Chivas USA coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola (aka Chelis) has really helped him. Ochoa is off to a much slower start, as he’s still waiting for his first goal this season. He’s one guy they could really use a boost from to get their attack going. And then there’s Freddy. He started the team’s last game against Sacramento but was pulled after 51 minutes because he was spent physically. He showed up to Las Vegas not exactly in peak condition in January but he’s in much better form now and I think his confidence is coming back. I’m interested to see whether the Lights keep starting him or try to have him be an attacking piece off the bench.
- 4 – Let’s talk about the game-day experience at Vegas. Like Fresno, Vegas also plays at a baseball stadium, in Cashman Field. How has the field looked for soccer? And is there any talk of possibly moving to a soccer-specific stadium in the near future? Also, we want to get your thoughts on this – are there any concerns with road fans taking over the stadium? Vegas is a destination city. Have you seen a large influx of road fans at all?
I think it’s fair to say the field’s been okay for soccer. If you know what you’re looking for you can tell it’s also a baseball field but for the most part, I think it looks decent. The Lights will actually get Cashman Field to themselves through in a year because the Las Vegas 51s will move to a new ballpark in the suburbs. So the field will be not a concern at all next year. I also don’t think road fans are really a concern, even though Sacramento had a nice contingent here last game. When it comes to Lights’ games, I think it’s the more the merrier.
- 5 – Vegas is kind of in the middle of a sports renaissance overall. Not long ago there weren’t any major sports happenings in the city. Now Vegas is the toast of NHL, the Raiders and a new billion dollar stadium are on the way, y’all even picked up a WNBA team that used to reside here in San Antonio – and of course, the Lights. What’s it like being a sports fan in Vegas right now?
It’s pretty crazy honestly because you’ve got a hockey team that can’t seem to lose right now taking over the town. It’s 100 percent Golden Knights and then everything else right now because they’re the first sports team to really unify the city. For so long Las Vegas was just the home of special events for sports, but now with the influx of new teams the city is really starting to form its own sports identity which is pretty exciting and the Lights certainly are playing a part in that.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Las Vegas Lights.
This team is just insane. It brings out llamas for pregame introductions, players can win poker chips if the team score three goals and wins and its mascot ride a motorcycle onto the field each game. Oh, and did I mention that the Lights are the first professional sports team in the U.S. to be sponsored by a marijuana dispensary? Because that’s a thing.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L W D D L D, 2018 Road Record 0-2-1
Las Vegas Lights – W D W D, 2018 Home Record 1-2-0
San Antonio FC – 6 points, GF 4, GA 7, -3 GD, 12th in USL West
Las Vegas Lights – 8 points, GF 7, GA 5, +2 GD, 10th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
This will be the first meeting between San Antonio FC and Las Vegas Lights. 0-0-0
Since SAFC haven’t played Las Vegas Lights before, here’s a look at the Match Highlights from their latest match against the Sacramento Republic last week.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (1-3-2) at Las Vegas Lights (2-2-0) #LVvSA
Cashman Field, Friday, April 27
Kickoff 10:00 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN 3
Key to victory
Get your coffee…or alcohol…. ready – it’s going to be a late one for the home team as San Antonio FC will line up against a brand new team for the second straight week. It will be a Friday night Lights matchup for San Antonio FC as they take on the Las Vegas Lights. And for a second straight week, the setting will be a baseball field converted for soccer as San Antonio will make their debut at Cashman Field.
Las Vegas is one of two remaining unbeaten teams in USL West, along with Sacramento. Although they have only played four matches, that’s still a good start for any brand new club. Las Vegas has outperformed San Antonio in common opponents this year, beating Fresno and Swope (San Antonio tied both) and drawing with Sacramento. San Antonio started their season out West with a loss to the Republic.
Unlike last week when Fresno had a short week, Vegas will be well rested. They haven’t played since April 14 – nearly a full 2 weeks since their last match. Vegas is also at the end of a 4-game home stretch. So they haven’t even left the city of Las Vegas since their opening match way back on March 17. Over a month at home! By contrast, this is San Antonio’s third time out of the Alamo City already, and it’s still April.
San Antonio fans will no doubt recognize Carlos Alvarez, the former debut signing of the silver and black. Alvarez is off to a pretty good start in Vegas with one goal and two assists. He’s also created 12 chances, three times as many as second place man Samuel Ochoa. Together with Alvarez, the long-time USL veteran makes for a pretty strong 1-2 punch that will be sure to test Restrepo and company. And that’s not even mentioning goal-scoring leaders Alex Mendoza and Joel Huiqui. Or Freddy Adu.
For San Antonio, once again, they’ll be desperate for a win and desperate for goals. Another match with dropped points will see them return home to a season that is starting to get away from them. On the flip side, a victory would see them leapfrog Vegas in the standings. From a mental and confidence standpoint, you could say this is a very important match in the early going. The good news for San Antonio and their struggling offense – Las Vegas has yet to produce a clean sheet. If there are any straws of hope to grasp at for a team that has one goal in their last four matches, that is the one.
No two ways about it, San Antonio has got to figure out how to put the ball in the back of the net. And it won’t be any easier for the SAFC offense without Kris Tyrpak who was red carded last weekend and will be suspended for the Las Vegas match. Tyrpak is one of only three goal scorers on the young season for San Antonio.
Restrepo picked up his second clean sheet of the season last week, so the defense has held up their end, allowing 1 goal or less in 4 of 6 matches. Certainly, they’ve given this team a chance to earn points nearly every week. It’s up to the offense to give them some support. San Antonio enjoyed 60 percent possession last week, but they still found themselves heavily out-shot in the match (19-8). Keeping the ball is important, but they need to generate much more in the attacking third to have a chance.
The numbers are starting to look rather dubious. SAFC is scoring at half of their 2016 pace through six games. Eight in 2016, four this year. That was a season they finished with only 36 goals total – good for 10th in USL West; the bottom third. This team is scoring at an even slower pace than that. If that’s not enough to alarm you, there’s this. Only two teams in USL West have scored fewer goals than SAFC’s 4 – OKC Energy (3) and LA2 (2). You get the picture. It’s ugly and it’s disappointing, and this team needs to light that spark sooner rather than later, or they’ll find the season slipping away as they enter the month of May.
We’re calling it a draw in the desert. We don’t have much faith in the offense until they can start to prove it. But we do think they’ll manage one goal. Somehow.
San Antonio FC – 1
Las Vegas Lights – 1
SAFC “Did You Know?”
Former SAFC player and current Las Vegas Lights player Carlos Alvarez recorded 59 shots on goal for the silver and black in 2016 – good for second all-time for an individual player in a single SAFC season.