Let’s be honest: Sometimes preseason games aren’t all that easy on the eyes.
Players are not yet fit and settled, nor are rosters. Teams are still works in progress, and the whole picture tends to be that of a work in progress, a half-baked cake, if you will. That’s why many teams hold some of their games behind closed doors.
And then sometimes you get the exact opposite, like what went down at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas late Saturday night.
USL expansion side Las Vegas Lights FC – coached by highly colorful former Chivas USA boss Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, better known as “Chelis” (pictured above) – are hosting several MLS teams for preseason friendlies as they get their inaugural season underway. On Saturday the Vancouver Whitecaps visited for what turned out to be a chaotic, contentious and utterly riveting 3-2 barnburner full of sound and fury.
The Whitecaps raced out to an early 2-0 lead, highlighted by a coast-to-coast wondergoal from Alphonso Davies, as the teen phenom took possession of the ball in his own penalty box and sprinted the length of the field down the left flank on a solo run capped by a calm finish past Lights FC goalkeeper Angel Alvarez.
Despite the support of the more than 6,000 fans in attendance at the hosts’ second-ever game, Vancouver mostly maintained firm control over the proceedings until the final half-hour or so, when tempers began to flare.
When Vegas’ captain Marcelo Alatorre earned a straight red card for what appeared to be a nasty elbow to the head of Davies in the 58th minute, it sparked a brief skirmish both on the field and on the sidelines, where Chelis exchanged strong words and angry gestures with Whitecaps assistant coach Martyn Pert as the two benches faced off.
Full incident from earlier in #LVvVAN:— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) February 18, 2018
-#LightsFC captain Marcelo Alatorre sent off for elbowing Davies in the head.
-Kamara almost gets in a fight with Alatorre
-Chelís confronts #VWFC assistant Martyn Pert
-Chelís confronts Carl Robinson
-Chelís + Pert sent off#Scenes #Vegas pic.twitter.com/PCRAHRA9MX
Chelis, Pert and LVLFC assistant Isidro Sánchez were all ejected, with Chelis climbing into the stands to take a seat – and anxiously smoke a few cigarettes – among his club’s most ardent supporters.
The match looked to be well and truly over, but Lights FC had other ideas. Even playing shorthanded, they rallied furiously and drew level via two classy goals from their No. 10, Mexican playmaker Juan Calderon – the first a gorgeously-struck free kick, the second a penalty kick – sparking smokebombs and raucous celebrations among the home faithful.
THE FIRST GOAL IN LIGHTS FC HISTORY!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/kITUdESa7X— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) February 18, 2018
Right after Juan José Calderón scored on a free kick, he added another goal for #LightsFC on a penalty to make it 2-2 vs #VWFC! Flares and smoke bombs going off, fans going wild, Chelis in the stands.....this game is LIT!! #LVvVAN #LightItUp #VivaLights #Vegas pic.twitter.com/f4fUA8bwmU— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) February 18, 2018
Even at that, the fun wasn’t done. Vancouver responded by earning a PK of their own a few minutes later, via a handball in the box by Vegas’ veteran Mexican defender Joel Huiqui. Kei Kamara stepped up to dispatch the spot kick and secure a narrow win that no one from the Whitecaps – or anyone else watching, for that matter – will soon forget.
13’ – VAN – Cristian Techera (Nicolas Mezquida)
18’ – VAN – Alphonso Davies
66’ – LVL – Juan Calderon
68’ – LVL – Juan Calderon (penalty kick)
74’ – VAN – Kei Kamara (penalty kick)
54' - LVL - Joel Huiqui
65' - VAN - Kendall Waston
86' - LVL - Angel Alvarez
58' - LVL - Marcelo Alatorre
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Stefan Marinovic; 15.Sean Franklin* (27.Lucas Stauffer^ 69'), 4.Kendall Waston ©, 26.Tim Parker (14.David Edgar* 80'), 17.Marcel de Jong; 6.Efrain Juárez, 31.Russell Teibert (42.David Norman Jr. 85'), 11.Nicolas Mezquida (54.Simon Colyn# 88'); 13.Cristian Techera, 23.Kei Kamara, 67.Alphonso Davies
*Training camp invitee
^Unsigned SuperDraft selection
# Whitecaps FC Residency player
Las Vegas Lights FC
12.Angel Alvarez; 4.Joel Huiqui, 16.Marcelo Alatorre, 16.Miguel Garduno; 14.Alex Mendoza, 26.Julian Portugal, 44.Daigo Kobayashi (66.Bryan de la Fuente 53’), 15.Carlos Alvarez; 37.Samuel Ochoa (7.Adolfo Guzman 80’), 23.Gerardo Lugo (10.Juan Jose Calderon 61’), 8.Isaac Diaz