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Lights FC ready for ‘great test’ against MLS powerhouse

Las Vegas Lights FC is off to a slow start this season and lately has been leaking goals at an alarming rate.

But all that can be erased Wednesday.

Lights FC hosts Major League Soccer powerhouse Los Angeles FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. at Cashman Field.

The round of 32 match is one of the biggest in Lights FC’s history since the USL Championship club debuted in 2018.

“As a manager and as a team, we always want to compete against the best and really see where we are,” Lights first-year coach Dennis Sanchez said. “We want to be tested against the best, and LAFC have arguably been the top MLS club over the past few years, have a very talented group of players. It will be a really great test for us.”

LAFC served as the MLS affiliate for Lights FC for two seasons, with players training in Los Angeles and traveling to Las Vegas for home games.

Steve Cherundolo, who managed LAFC to consecutive MLS Cup finals the past two seasons, was the Lights coach in 2021 before he was hired away. Current Lights FC midfielder Zander Romero is a product of the LAFC academy.

The arrangement between the clubs ended prior to the 2023 season.

“At the end of the day, it’s a club that we respect, but we’re going to treat it just like any other game and come out ready to compete,” Sanchez said.

Lights FC has faced an MLS side in a competitive match once in its history, losing 3-1 to Real Salt Lake in the third round of last year’s U.S. Open Cup.

Since a 2-1 overtime victory over Spokane Velocity FC on April 17 in the third round of this competition, Lights FC lost three straight in USL Championship play and sits ninth in the 12-team Western Conference.

In nine league matches, Lights FC has allowed a league-high 18 goals.

“If you look at our last few performances, for sure we know we’re capable of more, and there’s no better time to get the train back on track against an MLS club,” Sanchez said. “As a group we need to compete, make sure that our mentality is right. As much as we want to score goals, we have to have that same desire to protect our goal like our life depends on it.”

LAFC, which won the MLS Cup in 2022, is seventh out of 14 teams in the Western Conference. The club is led by forward Denis Bouanga and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, though both could be rested for Saturday’s MLS match against Vancouver.

Lights FC forward Joe Gyau is questionable with a left quadriceps injury. Midfielder Giovanni Aguilar (right knee) and forward Christian Pinzon (right foot) were ruled out.

Lights FC is 4-4 all time in the U.S. Open Cup. The winner advances to play either Orange County SC or Loudon United FC in the round of 16.

“We’re still very early in our process. We’re still a group that’s growing together,” Sanchez said. “There’s no better test than to do that against an MLS side, and we’re excited for Wednesday.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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