Las Vegas Lights FC scorched New Mexico United in downtown Las Vegas, 5-1.
Las Vegas Lights FC entered the match struggling to score goals and below the playoff line in the USL Western Conference. On the other side, New Mexico United came into the match after an upset US Open Cup, at the top of that Western Conference table, and sat tied for the highest-scoring squad in the entire league. Contrary to rhyme or reason, Lights FC dominated the favorite in this bout and sent NMU back to Albuquerque with a 5-1 defeat. Javan Torre, Tripa Hernandez, Preston Tabort Etaka, Edwin Rivas, and Junior Sandoval scored for the hosts while David Estrada provided the lone goal for New Mexico.
🔑 Five goalscorers. One of the storylines this season has been the search for a consistent scoring option outside of Irvin Parra. Last night, with Parra suspended, a group of his teammates stepped up. The diverse scoring doesn’t allow for the defense to zero in on one player to stop.
🔑 50% shooting accuracy. With 14 total shots, the Lights were able to put seven on frame and five in the back of the net.
🔑 11 interceptions. Knowing they were playing a side with some tired legs in the scorching heat, the high-press that Eric Wynalda deployed worked perfectly. It did not allow for New Mexico to get comfortable and it gave Las Vegas a chance to turn defense into offense quickly.
Three Brightest Lights
💡💡💡 Preston Tabort Etaka: The young Cameroonian scored the club’s third goal less than a week after his 21st birthday. Other than the goal, his main contribution was his work rate on the high press. He used his great pace to make things uncomfortable for the New Mexico backline.
💡💡 Javan Torre: What a blast from the defender. After some close calls at the other end, Torre gave Las Vegas a deserved lead in the first half. He added a chance created and an interception.
💡 Junior Sandoval: Coming off the bench at the break, he was able to score one goal and assist on another in his 45-minute shift.
⚽ Despite their abysmal away form, Lights FC now find themselves just one spot below a playoff position, tied on points with 10th place RGVFC and 12th place Orange County SC.
⚽ Torre’s monster strike will absolutely be in contention for USL Goal of the Week, something Eric Wynalda thinks it should win according to his walk-off interview at the break. The defender is now one yellow card away from suspension after getting a caution for taking his shirt off after the strike. But, when you score like that, I can’t be mad if you want to get a little crazy with the celebration.
⚽ Kevin Garcia Lopez continues to impress me every time out. He was playing as wing/wing back and provided pressure on the ball, five tackles, and four interceptions, and some decent balls on the ground into the box. His work rate is amazing and with him back from injury, the Lights are much better off defensively.
⚽ With Jose Villarreal getting closer to full fitness, Las Vegas will have one of the best trios of playmakers in the league with Pablo Cruz, Tripa Hernandez, and Villarreal. They all have the ability to dribble past defenders and they are always looking to set up their teammates. Tabort Etaka, Irvin Parra, and Sammy Ochoa will be the main beneficiaries. Hopefully, the injury that forced Tripa off last night is a minor one.
⚽ Nearly 8,000 fans in attendance on a toasty night in downtown Las Vegas. The crowd was solid and their voices grew louder after they saw some goals fly in. The pitchside pools did their job and kept some select individuals cool and I didn’t hear anything about the $2 Tequila action causing craziness, so that’s good!
Okay, What’s Next?
🗓 After a pair of home matches, Lights FC will travel to Texas to face another expansion side, El Paso Locomotive FC. Following New Mexico’s loss, El Paso now sit tied at the top of the table. Striker Jerome Kiesewetter was named USL Championship Player of the Month for May.