Week 18 Preview: what you need to know

Does soccer happen in Vegas?

This week the Legion gets to the mid-point of its season, as do several other teams, and next Wednesday Memphis 901 will be the final team to get half way done. The long, hot drive to the playoffs begins.

The most important part

The Legion didn’t get the hoped-for road result in San Antonio last week despite playing a very good game (which with the holiday we did not get around to covering as usual, for which our apologies). Tomorrow they travel even farther west to Las Vegas for the first ever meeting with the Lights. Yeah, hitting the desert in the middle of an El Niño heat wave doesn’t seem optimal, does it?

Well, it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the fact the Lights are dismal. They are bottom of the Western Conference with a 1-9-7 record and a -13 goal difference. That’s arguably worse than Hartford Athletic, who are on the same points total but at least have 2 wins. Las Vegas’ only win was a surprising 1-0 result in Phoenix back on May 26th. after that they went on a 5-game losing streak, which they managed to end on Independence Day, coming from behind twice to draw 2-2 with New Mexico United, finishing with a last gasp golazo by Azriel Gonzalez 4 minutes into second half stoppage time that will likely make the Goal of the Week voting.

But that also means they will be on short rest, although both games this week are at home for them. That July 4th game was at 8:00pm local time, tomorrow’s game will kick off at 7:30pm (9:30pm Central time). Considering that daytime temperatures have been topping 100° with zero precipitation, that’s just as well. It will in fact be the latest game on Saturday, and the last game of the entire USL weekend slate.

The game will be played at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas. Cashman was built as a AAA baseball park, built for a team that seems never to happy with its name. Originally the Spokane Indians, they became the Stars after moving west, then became the 51s and most recently the Aviators after moving out of Cashman Field in 2018. The Lights are not the sole tenant of Cashman, as the Vegas Vipers of the new XFL also use it. The Vipers, by the way, went 2-8 in 2023 and were dead last in the XFL’s North(???) Division, so Cashman has been very short on wins lately. Cashman is also set up rather oddly for soccer (and presumably football as well). The park has no outfield bleachers, just a giant curving wall with ads all over it. One goal net is barely clear of that wall (the other butts up against the first base seating), which makes for very strange visuals on TV, and presumably for the players as well.

Bad team, bad field. Makes sense.

The team is also short on recognizable names. Perhaps their biggest threat is Pato Botello Faz, who joined the team this season from Detroit City. He has 3 goals in 17 games (the most recent being this past Tuesday). They also have Emmanuel Ledesma (once of Indy Eleven), but he is 35 and not producing as he once did. The team as a whole has just 16 goals, which is tied (with Louisville City!) for 2nd worst in the league after Detroit. They also have Andrew Carleton, who has become better-known for various off-field missteps than actual playing performance, but he has had a career revival in Sin City and is a potentially dangerous midfielder. In goal is 21-year-old Argentine Alan Díaz on loan from River Plate. He has allowed 25 goals and made 31 saves. That’s not a good ratio, in case you were wondering.

The team uses a 4-4-2 or 4-1-4-1 formation most of the time and is managed by Isidro Sánchez. Sánchez is Mexican, but more importantly he’s the son of José Luis Juan Sánchez Solá, who is better known as Chelis and was the first ever head coach of the Lights. Isidro took over from his father when he got canned after numerous issues, followed him to their home team Puebla and eventually made his way back to Nevada.

Prediction: All told, the Lights are a disaster, and have been ever since they joined the league, even during their association with LAFC of MLS. The draw with New Mexico was a surprise, although United have not exactly impressed this season either. Look for the Legion to bounce back from the loss n San Antonio and come home with all 3 points.

Best of the rest

Three Week 18 games are already in the bag. In addition to the Vegas-New Mexico game, Loudoun United beat Hartford 2-1 on Monday and the Colorado Springs Switchbacks waxed Monterey Bay Union 4-0 on Tuesday.

With the Legion being the last game up, you can warm up for it with any number of choices. Or, more likely, get properly hydrated lubricated. The weekend actually starts tonight, and with a good one: Area Code FC hosts San Antonio (7:30pm). Obviously not fans of SAFC right now, but we need Memphis to drop points and they should still be licking their wounds after the 0-6 pounding they got in Phoenix on Saturday.

On to Saturday evening. There are several games at 6:00pm. Indy hosts FC Tulsa. Tulsa have been poor lately, but we need them to take points from this one, as Indy would, at least temporarily, pass the Legion with a win. Also important is Pittsburgh Riverhounds v., Sacramento Republic. The Hounds are tied on 31 points for the Eastern Conference lead, so we need them to lose a few here. SacRep as the top team in the entire Championship seems like the perfect opponent to make that happen.

At 6:30pm the Tampa Bay Rowdies play the Oakland Roots. Tampa are also on 31 points, but have a rather better chance of improving their record, as Oakland are just barely above the playoff line in the West. This will also be Neill Collins’ last game as Rowdies head coach before he goes to Barnsley of the English Championship. so they will want to give him a big send off. Conveniently perhaps, the Legion play the Rowdies at home next week. The final key Eastern Conference game will be Lou City v. Loudoun United (7:00pm). Louisville leads the Legion by 4 points right now, but they have a pretty good chance of maintaining that against Loudoun, although the Virginians can be unpredictable.

The remaining games are all out west, overlap the Legion to one degree or another and frankly aren’t that interesting anyway.

That Gold Cup thingy…

Sunday may be an off day in the USL Championship, but the USMNT will be in action, facing Canada in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. The game kicks off at 6:30pm at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati. The winner will play next Wednesday against the winner of Panama v. Qatar, which will be played tomorrow. The final will be a week from Sunday.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.