Tabort Etaka Prestdon of the Las Vegas Lights dribbles the ball against the Cal FC defense in Tuesday’s Second Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Las Vegas Lights
It was a small but rambunctious crowd on hand to see the hometown Las Vegas Lights FC defeat Cal FC 2-0 in Round 2 of the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Tuesday night at Cashman Field in the Lights’ fourth home victory of the year.
Lights head coach Eric Wynalda’s former team put up a valiant fight, but an early 15th minute goal by Lights forward Sammy Ochoa, and an even quicker 50th minute goal by Victor Rojas proved too much for a scrappy Cal FC team to overcome.
Wynalda said he was happy with the Lights’ performance, and that he actually regretted having to play his former club so early in the tournament.
Graphic by Dallas Kreil | IG: @dak_design
“It’s a ton of emotion, to be fair I would have rather played [Cal FC] further along in the competition. I’m not saying it was unfair to them, we just know these guys really well … the fact that our guys have played against them in so many games, is an advantage for us,” said Wynalda, who also credited his own side’s versatility and the ability of his players to adapt and play out of position.
“We had guys playing for the first time for our club. We had guys playing multiple positions, multiple systems … to come out of it 2-0, our club is very proud of the work that we put into this,” he added. “The preparation, all of it, to get a result like this against a very good side, it is something to be proud of.”
The Lights controlled much of the early possession, creating chances until finally Edwin Rivas’s cross found Ochoa’s head to put the Lights up 1-0. Immediately after the goal, Cal appeared to find its footing in the game, and dominated most of the remainder of the first half.
It appeared as if Cal would equalize multiple times, but each attempt was thwarted by the Lights’ bend-but-don’t-break defense and the sure hands of goalkeeper Angel Alvarez, who earned a clean sheet in his first start of the season.
The teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the Lights leading 1-0, but with Vegas very much on its back heel. However, halftime adjustments by Wynalda, including two substitutions (former Cal player Pablo Cruz and Junior Sandoval came on for Matt Thomas and Edwin Rivas, respectively) proved to be the boost the Lights needed to regain control of the game.
Rojas’s goal — his first as a member of the Lights — was the knockout punch that took Cal out of the game.
Tempers rose like the Vegas desert heat as the match neared its end, with each team earning a pair of second-half yellow cards. Cruz even nearly came to blows with Cal goalkeeper Kevin Marquez before things finally boiled over during stoppage time. Cal’s Victor Vasquez and Vegas’s Jonathan Levin had to be separated as well, and both were issued red cards just before the full-time whistle blew.
The Lights are now left with just two subs for their Round 3 match. The Lights bench is depleted due to players’ cup ties with previous teams, as well as injuries.