Lights FC midfielder Alex Mendoza admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect for his team’s first audience.
A sellout crowd of 10,387 at Cashman Field surpassed his expectations.
“I think it was incredible. It motivates you, you know?” Mendoza said. “It was something else. It was something special. We were all just happy to be a part of it.”
The Lights were able to create the raucous atmosphere they were seeking at their first preseason game against Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact on Saturday in a 2-0 loss, giving credence to the praise owner Brett Lashbrook heaped on Cashman as a soccer venue.
While the venue has limitations, ones that led to the 51s’ new stadium in Summerlin, the Lights worked around those for a largely successful debut. Cashman Field’s smaller concourses aren’t as big of an issue in soccer, where the only break in the action comes at halftime.
One of the issues for the Lights was getting their sellout crowd through the front gate to meet the game’s scheduled starting time, a problem the team will happily accept. The turf on the field was also uneven in parts, mainly where the basepaths and pitching mound were covered up, but the effect on the game was negligible.
“Overall I think it’s a great setup,” Mendoza said. “It’s a great start (for) the organization.”
Another game day issue was some fans using a chant considered a homophobic slur when the opposing goalkeeper kicked the ball.
The chant, which has a history of use in Mexican soccer but has been condemned by FIFA, roughly translates to male prostitute. The team hopes to curtail its use immediately.
“Of course it’s not permitted. Of course it’s not tolerated,” Lights owner Brett Lashbrook said. “This team is for everyone in the community.”
Defender Marcelo Alatorre wore the captain’s armband against Montreal and will again Saturday when the Lights host MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps, coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola said. Whether the 33-year-old veteran of Mexico’s first and second divisions keeps wearing it after that is up to him, Sola said, but he has set an example for the team’s younger players.
“I’m very surprised by the level of some of these young players,” said Alatorre, who singled out new teammate and midfielder Julian Portugal.
Lights goalkeeper Ricardo Ferrino earned a red card in the loss to Montreal, but because it’s the preseason, he will not be required to sit out against Vancouver.
Ferrino made two saves against the Impact, but in the 68th minute, he lost the ball while attempting to get around two defenders and had to commit a foul to avoid giving up an easy goal.
“It is a very thin line between being spectacular and being irresponsible,” Sola said.
The Lights have brought in three notable players to camp in the past week, including one who has a history with Sola.
Midfielder Carlos Alvarez, who started against the Impact, was selected second overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by Chivas USA when Sola was coaching the team.
Other additions include Liga MX and MLS veteran forward Samuel Ochoa, who spent last season with the United Soccer League’s Sacramento Republic, and midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, who was with MLS’ New England Revolution from 2014 to 2017.
Who: Lights FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
What: Soccer exhibition match
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cashman Field
TV/Radio: KCLV-2, KCLV.TV/Live, KENO (1460 AM) (Spanish)