While the Lights FC has started churning the bottom of its roster, adding and cutting three players Monday, its starting lineup is finally becoming more consistent.
The Lights have started the same players in their past two matches after using a different starting 11 in each of their first eight games. The lineup appears to have helped the team unlock its offensive potential, as the club looks as dangerous as it has all season leading up to its U.S. Open Cup match at FC Golden State Force at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Whittier, California.
“We are going on Wednesday one more time with the best players available,” Lights coach Isidro Sanchez said. “The U.S. Open Cup, it’s a good opportunity. Everyone on this team, we came to this country, we came to this league because it’s a big opportunity and we need to respect that.”
The Lights first trotted out a new lineup and formation in their first Open Cup game against FC Tucson on May 16 and proceeded to score a season-high four goals. They brought the same starters back against first-place Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday and set season highs in shots (26), shots on target (seven) and possession (59.7 percent) in a 2-0 loss.
“If you saw the game, you know we had the ball,” defender Miguel Garduno said. “We won one-versus-one.”
The FC Tucson match marked the first time this season the Lights deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, which allowed many of the team’s talented midfielders to control the game in the middle of the pitch and on the wings. Christian Torres, who had played in back earlier this season, moved up to defensive midfielder and distributed well with partner Daigo Kobayashi.
The two connected often with offensive midfielders Zak Drake, Matt Thomas and Carlos Alvarez, with the latter two combining for five shots on target against the Monarchs. The Lights also were able to funnel the ball to forward Samuel Ochoa, who scored his first two goals of the season against Tucson.
“I think that the mentality of the team is always scoring, going to the front,” Garduno said. “We’re not the worst team in the league. We’re not the best. But we’re at least working every day to get better.”
The formation and lineup allowed the team to finally gain a measure of offensive consistency, just in time for reinforcements to arrive and bolster the attack. Midfielder Juan Jose Calderon, who was injured in the Lights’ season opener at Fresno FC, returned to the field against the Monarchs, and the club signed another offensive midfielder in Eric Avila on Monday.
“We know him — 75, 80 percent of our offensive play at (Major League Soccer’s) Chivas USA was based in Avila and with his skills playing along the right sideline,” Sanchez said. “If he has a one-on-one situation offensively, he just needs a small gap to get by. He’s very vertical and offensive, is always thinking offensively.”