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USL rule prevents three Lights FC newcomers from playing

Updated July 10, 2018 - 8:27 pm

The Lights FC brought three players to Oklahoma City who were ready to make their season debuts after weeks of waiting.

They’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Forwards Omar Salgado and Daniel Guzman Jr., along with defender Rodrigo Inigo, had Tuesday circled on their calendars because it meant the opening of the international transfer window allowing them to become eligible.

But because the USL requires players to be registered 48 hours before a match, and the window opened Tuesday morning, the three won’t be able to play against OKC Energy FC at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“We find it incredibly disappointing that the league’s rule is prohibiting players that have been signed for weeks (from playing),” Lights owner Brett Lashbrook said. “We believe that the league rule should be changed.”

Lashbrook was surprised and angered by the rule, given that Guzman Jr. and Inigo have been on the Lights’ roster since May 22, with Salgado joining them June 13.

Guzman Jr. is ineligible despite the team sending in his files as soon as it could. The Lights were still waiting on Salgado and Inigo’s paperwork as of Tuesday evening.

Adding to Lashbrook’s frustration was that Wednesday’s match will be nationally televised on ESPNews and is the second of three appearances by the Lights on the USL Game of the Week.

“They’re all on the 23-man roster. This is not a hide-the-ball exercise. There’s no nefarious action here,” Lashbrook said.

A league spokesperson said, regarding Lashbrook’s complaints, there was nothing to discuss at this time and it would be resolved through “the appropriate channels.”

The three players are expected to contend for major minutes in the second half of the season and add sorely needed depth.

The team had only three non-goalkeepers available off the bench last game, and one, Las Vegas native Julian Portugal, left the team Monday.

“It was important (to get them) because our philosophy in the way we play is the way we train,” coach Isidro Sanchez said. “If we want to be competitive in the weekends, we need to be competitive daily. In order to be competitive daily, we need competitive players.”

Salgado, 24, and Guzman Jr., 26, should boost the Lights’ attack, and Sanchez praised the way they were able to push incumbent forward Samuel Ochoa in training. Inigo, 32, should provide a veteran presence on the back line after playing for Sanchez and technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola with the Mexican club Venados in 2016-17.

“All three of us have played in Mexico and in many different countries,” Salgado said. “I think we’ll bring a different level of experience to the team.”

The Lights presumably will have all three players available for their next match, at Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday.

Samayoa recognized

Lights defender Nico Samayoa was named to the USL’s Team of the Week on Tuesday. The 22-year-old had an assist and a game-high four tackles in his first start of the season July 7, a 1-0 win over Saint Louis FC.

Calderon leaves Lights

Midfielder Juan Jose Calderon parted ways with the Lights, the team announced Tuesday. The 27-year-old appeared in three games, starting one, but struggled with injuries.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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