Photo courtesy Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC
FRESNO, Ca. – In a battle of two of the United Soccer League's newest clubs, Las Vegas Lights FC struck early to seize its first win in franchise history in front of 7,769 fans at Chukchansi Park. The Lights rocketed out to an early lead over Fresno FC, as Matthew Thomas' blast from the left side nestled into the lower-right corner for the team's first-ever goal in just the second minute. After that lightning strike, proceedings slowed down as Fresno FC caught its collective breath and started to win more and more possession. Fresno did their best to level the score, including a 37th minute free kick off the foot of Juan Pablo Caffa that forced a stunning save from Lights goalkeeper Riccardo Ferrino to keep the lead at one heading into the break. That missed opportunity would come back to bite Fresno, as the Lights would strike in the second half to double their advantage. After a long-throw into the box, the ball fell to the feet of Alex Mendoza, who sent a rocket past Kyle Reynish from just outside of the eighteen. The woes would snowball for Fresno, as Las Vegas would make it three just a few minutes later thanks to a header from Joel Huiqui off an Anuar Kanan corner. Thankfully for the home fans in attendance, the hosts would at least manage a milestone of their own in the second half. After a beautiful dish over the top of the defense from Bradley Kamdem Fewo, Jemal Johnson would slot home the first goal in Fresno history to cut the lead to two. Fresno would make it very nervy for the Lights near the end of the match, as Renato Bustamante would score a second for the hosts in the final minutes to bring them within one. Ultimately, it wouldn't be enough and the Lights would leave Chukchansi Park with the first three points in franchise history.
2' – LV – Matthew Thomas (Daigo Kobayashi)
57' – LV – Alex Mendoza (Carlos Alvarez)
63' – LV – Joel Huiqui (Carlos Alvarez)
73' – FRS – Jemal Johnson (Bradley Kamdem Fewo)
89' – FRS – Renato Bustamante
Three Things That Matter:
1. The two newest USL expansion clubs wasted absolutely no time in reaching a milestone, as Matthew Thomas struck within the opening minute for the first goal scored Lights history - and the first goal allowed for Fresno FC. The visitors would add to their early advantage with a second goal on an Alex Mendoza screamer and made it three on a Joel Huiqui header. Ultimately, the Lights would end up with another milestone - the club's first-ever win.
2. The Lights quickly established an aggressive attacking style that overwhelmed Fresno FC from the outset. While the Foxes did well to battle back from their disappointingly quick concession, the Lights' willingness to throw men forward continued to produce opportunities that were too much for the hosts to repeatedly deal with. It was a surprising result, but a well-deserved one for the visitors.
3. Despite the less than ideal result, Fresno FC did have some positives to take home from the club's inaugural match. The host's moment of the match came from an elegant connection between Fewo and Johnson, with the latter coolly slotting home a long-distance finish around the Lights' Trevino. Combine that with a second goal from Bustamante, a few other dangerous opportunities and a healthy amount of possession and Fresno FC has a decent foundation to built on next week in match two.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Matthew Thomas, Las Vegas Lights FC – In an absolute dream start to the Lights' existence, Thomas' second minute goal sparked the visitors to an inaugural victory over their expansion rivals.
Fresno FC vs. LA Galaxy II – March 24, 10 p.m. ET, Chukchansi Park
Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Reno 1868 FC – March 24, 11 p.m. ET, Cashman Field