Streamers hit the field, flags began furiously waving and yellow and blue smoke entered the air.
Cashman Field’s crowd of 6,049 erupted when the Lights FC scored its first two goals in a preseason game against Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night, with coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola smoking in the stands and taking it all in.
Sola was ejected along with Whitecaps assistant coach Martyn Pert after they got into an argument when Lights defender Marcelo Alatorre was given a red card in the 57th minute. While Robinson left the field, Sola joined the Lights’ fans and watched his team erase a 2-0 deficit before falling 3-2.
“The coach of the other team said that I sent my players to fight, that I sent my players to kick the opponent. Obviously, that’s not fair,” Sola said. “But in Mexico, we have a quote: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you fat.’ Those two send-offs will help us to make the personality of the team. It’ll help us.”
The comeback started eight minutes after the ejection when forward Juan Jose Calderon took a free kick outside the penalty box and curved it past Whitecaps goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the team’s first goal. Three minutes later, Lights forward Samuel Ochoa was fouled inside the penalty box, and Calderon buried the ensuing penalty kick to tie the score.
“It’s important for us to score our first two goals,” Calderon said. “Since the last game, we feel this confidence.”
Former MLS MVP finalist Kei Kamara gave his team the lead back with a penalty kick in the 74th minute, and Marinovic saved a late chance to deny the Lights a third second-half goal.
The offensive output was still a major improvement for the team after it failed to record a shot on goal in its first preseason game against MLS’ Montreal Impact. Sola tweaked the starting 11, removing a defender off the field and inserting MLS veteran midfielder Daigamo Kobayashi, which helped the team create more pressure.
”More than the result, I am very happy with my team,” Sola said. “Last week in the first half we put the ball into the team’s (penalty) box four times. Today in the first half we put the ball in the (penalty) box 19 times.”
Sola’s other major change was starting goalkeeper Angel Alvarez, who played at Rancho High School, in place of Ricardo Ferrino. Alvarez allowed a goal in the 13th minute to Cristian Techera, then was beaten five minutes later when 17-year-old Whitecaps speedster Alphonso Davies took the ball all the way down the field and scored.
The crowd, lighter than the one of 10,387 that attended the team’s first preseason game, was largely quiet afterward until Calderon gave it a reason to explode.
From then on, Lights fans were raucous, with one smiling and smoking coach sitting among them.
”I like to be there. I think they’re glad to have me, to have me near them,” Sola said. “It’s not like an acting thing, it just feels like my natural place. I’ve always been a fan, so I’m glad to be with them.”