The Lights FC didn’t lose, but the team is back to the drawing board.
The Lights drew 1-1 with Sacramento Republic FC in front 8,167 fans at Cashman Field on Saturday in a game sandwiched between two early bye weeks, giving the club plenty of time to keep drilling its weaknesses.
The Lights (2-0-2) worked on their passing and offensive flow often during the last two weeks only to largely come up short in both areas against Sacramento.
“It’s an uncommon beginning. The last week off, we handled very, very bad,” coach Isidro Sanchez said. “We need to try new things in this week off because after this week off we have a lot of games.”
The Lights were searching for a spark on offense coming into the game and seemed to find one early when defender Joel Huiqui scored in the second minute to put the team ahead.
Defender Garduno headed a corner kick across the net to Huiqui only 1:22 into the game, and the captain dove headfirst by the back post to score his second goal of the season.
Both of Huiqui’s goals have come off of corner kicks, and he said Saturday’s played out just how the team drew it up.
“We can take a lot of advantage with those set pieces,” Huiqui said. “Set pieces are like a thermometer. They’re a big measure of the trust in the team to the coach, to the idea, to everything. Because everyone has a specific thing to do.”
That proved to be all the scoring the Lights could muster however, and the Republic (3-0-2) equalized in the 57th minute when midfielder Christian Eissele deflected a corner kick into the net.
The team’s offense largely fizzled after the early goal, recording only one more shot on frame and controlling the ball only 42.7 percent of the time. That led to technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola getting animated with his bench towards the end of the match as two points slipped away.
“We lacked intensity in the second half,” Huiqui said. “We are lacking also a lot of possession. And finishing. We need to train on that.”
Sola juggled the team’s lineup to find more offense, starting five midfielders and two forwards for the first time all season. One of those forwards was former American soccer prodigy Freddy Adu, who made his Lights debut after sporting a Golden Knights jersey with the rest of his teammates in pregame introductions.
Adu had two crosses in the game but no shots and was subbed out in the 51st minute for midfielder Matt Thomas.
“(Adu) is improving a lot. He (went) almost 14 months without starting a professional game,” Sanchez said. “He was a little bit out of shape, physically (when he arrived). Today we decided he was an option. Today we were trying to send a lot of balls, be much more offensive. We need players with quality (up top).”
The Lights weren’t offensive enough to get a win on Saturday, but they are still among the last three unbeaten teams in the Western Conference along with Sacramento. And they get another bye week to try to shore up their offense and passing before playing three matches in nine days.
“At the end we won one point,” Huiqui said. “We were up 1-0 almost 60 minutes. It was a good game. Obviously we were looking for the win, we were looking for the three points but we are (playing) the right way.”