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Gameday Report: October 10, Week 31

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 10/10/18, 8:46PM EDT

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Las Vegas stuns Phoenix with four-goal second half; Early goal lifts Saint Louis to verge of postseason


Photo courtesy L.E. Baskow / Las Vegas Lights FC

THREE THINGS THAT MATTERED

1. Las Vegas Lights FC saved its best performance of the season for its home finale as it powered to a 5-2 victory against second-place Phoenix Rising FC at Cashman Field in the USL Game of the Week that put a major dent in Phoenix’s chances of finishing first in the Western Conference standings at the end of the regular season. Rising FC appeared to be in good shape to pull level on points with Orange County SC as it held a one-goal lead at halftime, but four second-half goals by the hosts that were capped by a spectacular scissor-kick by Sammy Ochoa saw Lights FC give Head Coach Isidro Sanchez the display he was looking for in a rousing conclusion to the club’s first season at Cashman Field and plenty to look forward to in 2019.

2. Saint Louis FC came flying out of the gates to take an early lead through Corey Hertzog and it proved enough in a 1-0 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis on Wednesday night that moved the hosts within a point of clinching its first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs. Hertzog redirected home a close-range finish off a header by Phanuel Kavita as Saint Louis made the most of a corner kick in the 14th minute. The hosts could have added to their lead as well if not for a stellar display by Roughnecks goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, but the lone goal gave STLFC its seventh consecutive home win and the inside track to a playoff berth.

3. The top four seeds for the Eastern Conference bracket were set on Wednesday night as Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC was held to a 1-1 draw by ATL UTD 2 at Coolray Field to leave the Hounds unable to catch Louisville City FC with only one game of the regular season remaining. Pittsburgh will enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed, with the Charleston Battery rounding out the top four, as Atlanta once again proved a bump in the road for one of the Eastern Conference’s playoff contenders in heavy, rainy conditions. 

GAME REPORTS

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS FC (5), PHOENIX RISING FC (2)

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas Lights FC scored four times in the second half to romp past second-place Phoenix Rising FC in a 5-2 victory at Cashman Field as the hosts brought the house down in their home finale for 2018. It took Rising FC only 80 seconds to take the lead as a defensive error set up a chance for Collin Fernandez to drive home a low finish to the right corner from the top of the penalty area. Las Vegas almost found an equalizer in the 10th minute as a good return pass to Matt Thomas in the left side of the penalty area opened a chance for a near-post effort that was turned wide by Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin, but the hosts leveled from the penalty spot in the 29th minute through Juan Carlos Garcia after Carter Manley was fouled in the area. Phoenix got a penalty kick of its own before halftime as Devin Vega was fouled by Lights FC defender Joel Huiqui, and Vega put home the spot kick to put the visitors back ahead, but the second half belonged to Lights FC as it leveled for a second time in the 71st minute when Miguel Garduno redirected Manley’s cross from the right. Three minutes later the hosts grabbed the lead for the first time on the night as Raul Mendiola put away the rebound after Lubin had saved initially from Daigo Kobayashi, and Carlos Alvarez added a fourth in the 79th minute with a sharp finish to the right corner from close range. Sammy Ochoa then capped Las Vegas’ remarkable home finale with six minutes to go as he volleyed home a scissor kick off Alex Mendoza’s chipped cross from the right as Phoenix conceded five goals for the first time this season and missed its chance to pull level with Orange County at the top of the Western Conference.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Sammy Ochoa, Las Vegas Lights FC
– Ochoa battled consistently all night to produce four key passes before a brilliant finish capped Lights FC’s attacking outburst in the final 20 minutes to claim a remarkable victory.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 2 (2), COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC (2)

TACOMA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders FC 2 got a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Cheney Stadium that saw both sides hold the lead either side of halftime. The hosts threatened twice inside the opening 15 minutes with Shandon Hopeau forcing a diving save by Switchbacks goalkeeper Steward Ceus with a shot from 20 yards that was headed to the left corner and Lamar Neagle also being denied on a well-struck finish from the right side of the penalty area. S2 grabbed the lead just before halftime, however, as Neagle headed home a free kick from the left by Azriel Gonzalez as Ceus came for the cross but was beaten to the delivery by the veteran forward. The Switchbacks hit back six minutes into the second half as Saeed Robinson produced a brilliant curled finish to the top-right corner from outside the penalty area, and less than a minute later they had the lead as Shane Malcolm tucked away a cross from the left by Karsten Hanlin. But Seattle equalized with 10 minutes to go as Alec Diaz scored his first professional goal as he hammered home a close-range finish after Colorado Springs was unable to clear a long throw-in by Jordan McCrary, and that closed the scoring as the Switchbacks ended their regular season with a draw.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Alec Diaz, Seattle Sounders FC 2
– Diaz came on as a second-half substitute and produced his first professional goal to level for the hosts as honors finished even in its home finale at Cheney Stadium.

SAINT LOUIS FC (1), TULSA ROUGHNECKS FC (0)

FENTON, Mo. – An early goal by Corey Hertzog lifted Saint Louis FC to the verge of a place in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs after a 1-0 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis. Saint Louis almost took the lead in just the third minute when a clever redirected header by Albert Dikwa from the top of the six-yard area was brilliantly turned away by Roughnecks goalkeeper Fabian Cerda, but the hosts went ahead in the 14th minute when Hertzog volleyed home a header by Phanuel Kavita from close range. Hertzog almost added a second six minutes later when his angled header off a free kick was turned wide of the left post by Cerda, and STLFC rang the post in the final minute of the first half as Kadeem Dacres’ low shot from 16 yards hit the left upright and went behind for a goal kick. Tulsa’s Nemanja Vukovic forced an early save in the second half by STLFC goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, while another set piece led to a chance for the hosts as Tony Walls’ header with 14 minutes to go was tipped just over the top-right corner by Cerda. The early goal proved enough to take all three points, however, as STLFC claimed a crucial seventh consecutive home victory.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Corey Hertzog, Saint Louis FC
– Hertzog notched the game-winning goal early and put in a strong attacking display overall with five shots and two key passes to lift his side to a massive win.

ATL UTD 2 (1), PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC (1)

GWINNETT, Ga. – ATL UTD 2 and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC played to a 1-1 draw at Coolray Field on Wednesday night to lock the Hounds into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference postseason bracket. Pittsburgh applied pressure in the soggy conditions consistently from the off and that paid off in the 27th minute when a free kick by Christiano Francois was headed into the left corner by Thomas Vancaeyezeele to give the visitors the lead. Atlanta got onto the front foot at the start of the second half and Laurent Kissiedou was denied by a good kick-save by Pittsburgh goalkeeper Dan Lynd six minutes after the break. A minute later, however, Kissiedou wouldn’t be denied as he picked out the bottom-left corner with a finish from 14 yards to level things up. Riverhounds SC almost regained the lead in the 63rd minute when Francois had a well-hit shot from a tight angle on the left turned wide by Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann at the near post, while Atlanta’s Jackson Conway had a big one-on-one chance that Lynd did just enough to turn wide with 13 minutes to go and Pittsburgh’s Joe Holland hit the left post five minutes later with a shot from 12 yards. The Hounds pushed hard late to find a winner and Atlanta’s Devon Sandoval and Shawn Nicklaw both made key goal-line clearances to keep out a pair of late chances for the visitors, but no late goal arrived for Pittsburgh as it played to a third consecutive draw.

USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Shawn Nicklaw, ATL UTD 2
– Nicklaw recorded 12 clearances including a crucial goal-line denial to keep out a late chance for Joe Holland as the hosts held firm late for a draw.

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