Match Day 33 will see San Antonio FC playing the second of three home matches to wrap up the regular season – the next to last match of the year! And the second of the season against newcomer Las Vegas. We caught up with Las Vegas Lights Insider Harry Ruiz (@harryruiz) to get some intel on the visitors. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) We haven’t seen Vegas since way back in April. Catch us up on how the season has gone and what has stood out?
(HR) Well, San Antonio was the first regular season loss for Las Vegas back on April 27th. After that, it was 3 months of ups and downs for the Lights F.C.
During August and September, the team has played some of their best games, but they weren’t able to get the wins they needed to stay in the playoff hunt.
The Lights are having good performances and will try to close out their inaugural season in a positive manner, even if it means hurting the postseason hopes for other squads.
- 2 – It has kind of been a three-headed attack this year with Carlos Alvarez, Raul Mendiola, and Samuel Ochoa. We know all about the former SAFC man Alvarez, and Ochoa is a long-tenured USL player. Tell us more about Mendiola and what has made this group so successful as a whole in 2018?
Most of the season it has been scoring by committee, but as of late Raul Mendiola has stood out with strong outings. He joined Las Vegas in late May, missing only one game since. Mendiola is the Lights F.C. leading scorer with 9 goals and he is a high-efficiency player who takes shots with a high possibility of ending in the back of the net …. if he doesn’t see it there, he finds his teammate who might have it.
- 3 – It has been a tough year defensively for Vegas, as they are among the league leaders in goals allowed, and only three clean sheets for starting keeper Ricardo Ferrino. How does it affect the weekly tactical approach when they likely feel like they have to outscore teams most weeks?
Since the coaching staff was introduced, they said that the team’s playing style would be aggressive and attractive for the fans. That has come with a cost: leaving a lot of spaces in the defensive part of the field, this combined with the non-conventional ways of Ferriño hasn’t been a good formula and has made the Lights a vulnerable team in the back. The weekly tactical approach is to score as many goals as possible, but it’s tough to win games when you’re getting scored in bunches.
- 4 – The Las Vegas 51’s (AAA) are moving to a new facility next year so that leaves Cashman Field all to the Lights. What changes or improvements to the stadium can we expect from owner Brett Lashbrook now that there won’t be baseball at the facility in 2019?
If you’ve never been to Cashman Field and your first event there is a Lights F.C. game, there would only be one thing that would make you notice it has always been a baseball stadium: the infield covered with grass. Besides that, the ownership group and front office does an outstanding job giving it a real soccer “feel” from the tailgating area, to the stands (specially the supporter section) and the show pre & post-game, plus halftime that is leaps and bounds better than what goes on during other sporting events at Cashman Field.
There are big plans for changes at the stadium like having a horseshoe-shaped seat configuration by taking down the right field wall to have more seating there, including VIP hospitality areas. In addition to that, something very important for the players, the playing field will have a permanent surface with the best kind of grass for soccer.
No upgrades can be made until the Lights F.C. becomes the primary tenant of Cashman Field, that will happen when the 51’s give their 60-day termination notice to the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) … something that hasn’t happened yet.
- 5 – San Antonio got the win the last time, despite a very costly injury to leading scorer Guzman. Vegas has not been so good on the road – only two wins away from home this season. Is this in the bag for San Antonio? What’s your prediction for the match?
I know one thing from being in Las Vegas, NOTHING IS IN THE BAG. On paper, it looks like a good matchup for San Antonio and the sportsbooks will clearly have them as the favorites to win.
But if there’s a team to fear it’s the one that has nothing to lose. They’ll play with no pressure and could shock the world, I expect it for it to be a high scoring matchup with San Antonio practically obligated to win.
- 6 – What’s your prediction for where Vegas will finish and what are their biggest needs to improve in 2019?
Consistency. There were a lot of changes on the team’s roster throughout the season, 4 of the starters that played against San Antonio back in April aren’t with the Lights F.C. anymore. The coaching staff admitted that they underestimated the USL, that mistake won’t happen again. Technical Director “Chelís” is gone and his son Isidro Sanchez is now in charge, I personally like what he brings to the table and I can see Las Vegas being a playoff team in 2019.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – W L L L W, 2018 Home Record 9-3-3
Las Vegas Lights FC – L L D L L, 2018 Road Record 2-3-10
San Antonio FC: 46 points, 41 GF, 46 GA, -5 GD, 9th in USL West
Las Vegas Lights FCs: 27 points, 44 GF, 68 GA, -24 GD, 15th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
This will be the second overall meeting between SAFC and the newcomers from Vegas. San Antonio won the first match 3-1. All-time they are 1-0-0 vs Las Vegas.
4/27/2018 @ LV – SA 3, LV 1
10/6/2018 @ SA –
It was a wild affair in Vegas the first time these two met back in April. Guzman got it going for SAFC but unfortunately had to be subbed out as he was injured on the goal scoring play. It would be a very costly injury to SAFC as he would end up missing over a month of action. Escalante would score his only goal of the year and Rafa Castillo would add one of his two league penalty kicks on the year. That set SAFC on their way to a comfortable 3-1 win in the desert. Former SAFC man Carlos Alvarez scored for Vegas and Torres would be sent off with a straight red in the 88th minute. Here are the match highlights:
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Las Vegas Lights FC (7-7-17) at San Antonio FC (13-7-12) #SAvLV
Toyota Field, Saturday, October 6th
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
There were a lot of notable happenings for San Antonio FC on Saturday night but none more important than San Antonio 3, Seattle 1. Except maybe Phoenix Rising 2, Saint Louis 0. Thanks to a Billy Forbes winner, no less. You can’t make this stuff up. Those were the exact two results SAFC needed to stay in playoff contention, and they are still very much alive with two games to play. That’s all that SAFC fans can ask for at this stage of the proceedings.
The things that went right for SAFC starts with loanee Lance Laing. For the fourth time in seven starts, and eight overall appearances in San Antonio, he notched a goal and an assist in the same match. A remarkable effort in a silver and black uniform. He has been so good, he is now third on the team in goals and second on the team in assists. For the entire season. Incredible production.
The good didn’t stop there. How about 17-year-old Ethan Bryant, San Antonio FC’s first Academy call-up, scoring his first ever professional goal? And what a laser strike it was. It was a terrific moment for the young man. Hopefully, this is the first of many in his career.
Maxi Rodriguez came off the bench and scored his first USL goal of the season to put the game out of reach. Maxi did score in Open Cup play this year against Midland-Odessa, but that was his first league goal in his 16th league appearance in 2018. The timing could not have been better.
And how about Rafa Castillo returning to action after a long stint on the injury list? It was his first appearance since June and only his second appearance since mid-May. It was a welcome sight just to see him back out there. It looked like it wasn’t going to happen as the weeks ticked by on the calendar, so it was a nice surprise. Who knows what will happen with him in 2019, but the fans loved seeing him back on the Toyota Field turf, getting a huge ovation as he entered the match. Well deserved.
And then there was Iron Man Greg Cochrane, who celebrated becoming the first-ever San Antonio FC player to hit the 100 appearance mark. It was nice to see the club mark the moment in style prior to the match. There is no doubt that Greg Cochrane has been THE face of this franchise through its first three seasons. No one has been more dependable and more consistent in his high level of play game in and game out than Cochrane.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news as Guzman exited the match early with an injury. The team isn’t usually very forthcoming on such matters, so we’ll just have to wait and see if that ends his season or not. He did manage to earn another assist before he had to exit the match unceremoniously. If that was his last action of 2018, he exits as the goal-scoring leader for SAFC despite missing several matches to injury.
That brings us to Las Vegas. San Antonio will be looking for the sweep as they face their second of three straight eliminated teams at home to end the season. Las Vegas arrives in San Antonio after losing over the weekend to OKC 1-0. They only have two wins on the road all season. They have a negative 28 goal differential. They’ve played ten straight matches without a victory. San Antonio needs to take the same attitude from last week and apply it again on Saturday night. The playoffs are already here for SAFC and if they want to be a part of the actual USL playoffs in 2018, they need a repeat of last weekend.
They still need more help from other teams, but San Antonio should uphold their end of the bargain. San Antonio wins again.
San Antonio FC – 2
Las Vegas Lights FC – 0
If you started at zero and counted up, what is the first number you would get to that hasn’t been worn by a San Antonio FC player?
Answer next week in our regular season finale of the Six Pointer Preview.