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Foxes score twice, but fall in USL home opener to Las Vegas Lights

By Angel Moreno, 03/17/18, 11:00PM PDT


Jemal Johnson, Renato Bustamante score the first goals in Fresno FC history

Photo by Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC

Jemal Johnson fired a cracker from outside the box, scoring the first goal in Fresno Football Club history and minutes later former Fresno Fuego standout Renato Bustamante added another to provide the crowd of 7,750 fans with a thrilling USL debut on Saturday night at Chukchansi Park.

The last-minute effort, however, wasn't enough for Los Zorros, who fell 3-2 to fellow expansion franchise Las Vegas Lights FC.

"If we have this kind of crowd every week, it's going to give us a fantastic chance at home to do well. If we had a few more minutes, I think, we would've had the equalizer," head coach Adam Smith told reporters after the game. "If we continue to show that spirit and determination - that desire - then we'll come on the upside more than the downside. I'm convinced of that."

The Lights struck early with a blast from Matthew Thomas that slotted into the bottom right corner in the second minute. 

The Foxes tried to level the score, coming closest in the 37th minute when Juan Pablo Caffa's shot off a corner kick forced Las Vegas goalkeeper Riccardo Ferrino to make a stretching save.

In the second half, Las Vegas doubled its lead in the 57th minute when Alex Mendoza fired a shot past Kyle Reynish from outside the eighteen. Six minutes later, it was 3-0 Lights as Joel Huiqui put the finish on a corner kick from Anuar Kanan.

Down, but not out, Fresno rallied for their first score when defender Bradley Kamdem Fewo volleyed a gorgeous ball over the defense to Johnson, who then slotted it home to awaken the Fresno faithful.

The Foxes continued their comeback assault, with an aggressive attack along the wings behind the likes of Alex Cooper, Danny Barrera, and Zachary Ellis-Hayden. The Lights slowed the Fresno offense with a hard foul, leading to a scuffle and yellow cards to both Johnson and Huiqui. 

Fresno nearly cut the deficit in half when substitute Christian Chaney put his head on the end of a corner kick from Danny Barrera. The score finally came in the 89th when Bustamante tapped in the finish right in front of Fire Squad Fresno.  

Fresno FC remains at home for the week, next playing host to LA Galaxy II on Saturday, March 24.

Photo by Kiel Maddox / Fresno FC