Las Vegas Lights FC held off Sacramento Republic FC for a 4-2 victory at Cashman Field in their first meeting of the season on May 4. | Photo courtesy Las Vegas Lights FC
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Two teams looking to boost their position in the Western Conference standings will square off in the latest edition of Wednesday Night Soccer when Sacramento Republic FC hosts Las Vegas Lights FC at Papa Murphy’s Park (11 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPNews) in their second meeting of the season.
Four goals in a 23-minute span of the second half helped Lights FC to a 4-2 victory over Republic FC in Las Vegas on May 4, which saw the hosts even the all-time series between the two sides in USL Championship play with three games split 1-1-1.
Before both sides have a chance to tilt the scale one way or another over 90 minutes of action, here are three storylines we’re keeping an eye on going into Wednesday night.
BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS: As we approach the final third of the 2019 regular season, every match means more and more as teams try to accumulate enough points to reach the USL Championship Playoffs. However, while this game will certainly be significant to both Las Vegas and Sacramento, it will probably mean a little bit more to Lights FC’s Jose Villarreal and Republic FC’s Jaime Villarreal. After sharing the field 28 times as members of the LA Galaxy II and four more times as with the MLS side, Wednesday night’s matchup will be the first time the brothers will be pitted up against each other at the professional level. I think it’s safe to assume that there will be some major bragging rights on the line in this one.
DOUBLE-DIGIT DUO: In addition to having a Villarreal brother on their roster, both Lights FC and Republic FC boast double-digit goalscorers up front. Sacramento forward Cameron Iwasa reached the 10-goal milestone for the second straight season and third time overall on Saturday in a 3-2 win over San Antonio FC and will be relied on heavily to continue finding the back of the net over the final stretch of the season, even with Stefano Bonomo starting to round into form. Las Vegas forward Irvin Parra also sits on an even 10 goals for the campaign, having reached the mark with his game-winning tally against Rio Grande Valley FC on July 27. Parra got the better of Iwasa in the first meeting between the two sides, scoring the opening goal and providing a pair of assists on his way to Man of the Match honors. That should give the Sacramento native a little more motivation to make his impact felt on Wednesday night.
EARNING HIS KEEP: While Thomas Olsen has made a smooth transition into the No. 1 role for Lights FC between the sticks, there are still some questions about Republic FC’s goalkeeping situation. Rafael Diaz has assumed the starting job since Josh Cohen made his move to Israel’s Maccabi Haifa FC last month and impressed with seven saves in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over San Antonio, helping Sacramento withstand a second-half siege and hold its three-goal halftime lead. With the news coming on Tuesday that Republic FC will be adding veteran goalkeeper Bobby Shuttlesworth on loan from MLS side Minnesota United FC for the remainder of the 2019 season, Diaz will want to take this opportunity to make another good impression on Head Coach Simon Elliott in hopes of retaining his spot in the lineup.