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Preview: Vegas Baby!

A warning: this preview will be heavy on references to the mid-90s Vince Vaughn-John Favreau movie Swingers. This movie was required viewing for men of a certain age, aka 40-somethings, and was really funny at the time,  but I am unsure if it has aged well at all. You can’t really find it on FX or TNT or TBS on the weekends, which implies to me that it has been ejected from our cultural lexicon, much like tamagotchis and pole-sitting. Warning over.

VEGAS BABY! VEGAS!

The Riverhounds are in Sin City this evening for a match against USL’s intentionally whimsical, mostly ridiculous franchise Las Vegas Lights. The Lights are a silly team: in their first year, they hired Mexican coach Chelis as their manager. The bombastic, mercurial Chelis is the Billy Martin of soccer, having been hired, then fired by Puebla in Liga MX three times from 2006-2010, then again in 2014. Vegas hired him in 2018 for their inaugural season and he certainly was entertaining. Per Wikipedia “His tenure was marred by two suspensions totaling twelve games and lighting a cigarette in the stands following a referee sending him off the pitch.” After getting sacked from Las Vegas, Chelis managed (wait for it) Puebla in 2019.

That first year in LV, Lights was Shenanigans FC. Helicopter cash drop? Yup. Reversible jersey with a smiley face inside? Check. Signing Freddy Adu? Correct. Replacing Chelis with the bombastic, fiery Eric Wynalda? Uh huh.

USL, and, to some degree, MLS, are both divided into two camps: “the Pirates of the Caribbean horses***” with a “Rock and Roll Grunge Tip” camp, and the “kickin’ it old school” camp. If the Riverhounds were a Vegas casino, they’d be the Golden Nugget, Caesar’s Palace, or Circus Circus. You know, *a classic*. LV Lights are the bastard offspring of the Bellagio, Hard Rock, and the Venetian. They are the slick, cool USL 3.0 reboot. Blargh.

Of additional note, for the second week in a row, the Hounds face an opponent they’ve never faced before. And, unfortunately, for the second week in a row, we’re playing soccer on a baseball field. Arggh. Although Soccer Stadium Digest once wrote that the field is better configured for soccer than most baseball fields.

Personnel and Tactics

The Lights are seventh in USL (out of 27 teams) in Goals Scored Per Match with 1.8. They are 25th in Goals Conceded Per Match with 2.0. They are an offensively minded team that plays in a free flowing 4-3-3 formation most games. To quote Swingers again,

“Trent, the beautiful babies don’t work the midnight to six shift on a Wednesday. This is like the skank shift.”

[Note: I want to acknowledge the intended misogyny in this quote, which is off-putting, while also noting that the analogy works really well. LV Lights go out an have a good time when they play. But they also give it up quite easily. Let us recognize that, in 1996, this was cro-magnin guy babble that does not jibe today. To reinvent it for the modern era, we might think that the pejorative ‘skank’ might be equally and best applied to either gender. Additionally, nobody in human history has ever attempted to apologize for  a mid 90’s film quote in a soccer article to this degree before].

The lineup is interesting. The eye-popping stat grabber is Daniel Trejo, who has 5 goals, 4 assists for Lights. He was drafted out of Cal State Northridge in the MLS SuperDraft in 2021 with the 14th overall pick by LAFC, who have an affiliation and loan deal with Las Vegas. Trejo had 9 starts and 970 minutes in 2021 for LV, but is clearly blowing up this year. He’s been USL Player of the Week twice already.

Also, his nickname is, of course, Machete. And yes, he hangs with the other Danny Trejo on the regular.

 

Their main guy in midfield is Daniel Crisostomo, a very good both-ways player. After a standout career at UC Irvine, he’s slowly becoming a USL mainstay on the West Coast. He got 10 games last year with LAFC under Bob Bradley, but couldn’t impress anyone enough to stay in the US top tier.

Veteran Dekel Keinan anchors the backline for Lights. The 37 year-old Israeli might be a familiar name to Hounds fans, since he played for our rival FC Cincinnati in 2018, before moving on to Sacramento for 2019-2020 and then Lights to start 2021. Back in his heyday, he helped Maccabi Haifa win the league in Israel in 2009, and then steered Haifa through preliminary qualifications to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in 2010. Haifa played Juventus, Bordeaux, and Bayern Munich; Keinan starting each of the matches; as Haifa regrettably lost all six matches. Keinan has played against Miroslav Klose, Bastain Schweinsteiger, and Arjen Robben; Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, and David Trezeguet. You and I have not. So that’s pretty cool. He also went on to play for Blackpool in their on year in the English Premiership in 2010-2011.

The diminutive Frank Daroma will likely start in midfield for Lights. He’s a 5 foot 4 native of Sierra Leone who played two years in college with Cal State San Bernardino before going pro. He led Las Vegas in minutes played and yellow cards for 2021 – so think annoying fouls and watching Kenny Forbes and Danny Griffin getting kicked in the shins a lot.

I think the Hounds have got this one. “You’re so money baby and you don’t even know it.”

Last Week’s Lineup

Match Info

Riverhounds (4-0-1) vs. Las Vegas Lights FC (3-3-0)
Date: Saturday, April 16
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nev.
Odds: Hounds -152 / Draw +270 / Las Vegas +320 (BetRivers.com)
TV: 22 The Point
Streaming: ESPN+
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtag: #LVvPIT

 

image c/o LV Lights via twitter

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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