Las Vegas Lights FC didn’t need any luck on Wednesday night, as the USL Championship club easily defeated LA Force FC (NISA) 4-0 in the Second Round of the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
It was the third time in the team’s four US Open Cup appearances that they have won their opening game, but the first time they had defeated a professional opponent.
The game was played at Peter Johann Soccer Field on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) and fans of the home team didn’t have to wait long for the deadlock to be broken.
In the 16th minute, Azriel González lined up for a direct kick from the middle of the 18-yard box. With the ball nearly resting on the chalk, González unleashed an absolute rocket directly into the lower left corner of the goal. Cooly taken and cooly celebrated, the Las Vegas Lights were only getting started with their rout.
Less than ten minutes later, it was González again with the goal production. In the 23rd minute, he was able to get in behind the LA Force defense and slot the ball home to double the lead. González would finish the match with a brace, but continued to threaten the goal every chance he could. His brace would also prove to be his first goals for the club across all competitions.
In the 37th minute, Justin Ingram used a magnificent one-touch shot to hammer the ball into the back of the net. Ingram received a great set-up pass from Zach Carroll and left no doubt behind the shot. The goal was Ingram’s first goal for the Lights across all competitions, as well as Carroll collecting his first assist of the calendar year. The two sides would go to halftime with the Lights leading 3-0.
The second half seemed to echo the first half, but Las Vegas would wait until the 64th minute to extend their lead by another goal. Pablo Soares was able to connect with Erick Torres, who took a shot from the center of the box and placed the ball in the center of the net, too. Torres collected his first goal for the Lights this season and Soares earned his first assist of the season.
Aside from the goal, the only other noteworthy event that took place in the second half was in the 55th minute when the Lights made three subs. The biggest was 2018 USL MVP Emmanuel Ledesma, who had been recently been signed by the club. He won the league MVP as a member of FC Cincinnati, a year before their move to Major League Soccer. After leaving Cincinnati, he played for a club in Finland (SJK), came back stateside to play with Indy Eleven (USL Championship) in 2021 before signing with Chilean club Barnechea.
With the result in hand, the Lights would play the remaining half hour without an additional goal, but would . The win proved to be the first time the Lights advanced to the Third Round for the first time since 2019.
Lights goalkeeper Andre Zuluaga made his debut for the club, earning a clean sheet in his first career US Open Cup game.
For the LA Force it was the club’s second loss in as many US Open Cup game in club’s professional team history (their USL League Two team qualified three times from 2017-19). Both losses came on the road against USL Championship teams (last year, they lost at Orange County SC)
In the Third Round draw for the US Open Cup, Las Vegas learned that they will be hosting MLS club Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, April 26. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.