Zach Mathers kept things subtle for his first goal with the Lights FC.
The midfielder didn’t celebrate much after sending a ball through the legs of Seattle Sounders FC 2 defender Francisco Narbon and into the net June 16, instead pumping his hands by his hips to send a message to his teammates. The former Sounders’ second-round pick didn’t want to look like he was rubbing anything in against his former team despite being cut in March.
“Before the game, I was trying to imagine, ‘Do I celebrate against them if I score or do I not?’ I think, for me, that second team gave me everything,” Mathers said. “I maybe wasn’t trying to calm the crowd down, but making my teammates realize that this is my former team that I respect. That’s what the hands were for.”
If Mathers scores in the Lights’ game against the Swope Park Rangers on Sunday in Kansas City, Kan., it probably will be a different story. Even if he doesn’t, the club is already reaping the benefits of its May 31 signing, as the Fort Worth, Texas, native has a goal and an assist in his first three games.
Technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola wanted to add experienced players to his roster, and in Mathers he found a proven scorer sitting on the couch. The 24-year-old had 11 goals and five assists in 24 games last season with the Sounders 2, but he was cut just before the 2018 regular season started.
“I think, honestly, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Mathers said. “I don’t think I fit in with how that team wanted to play and the way they wanted young guys to do stuff. And that’s OK. I think it was a good thing, and I think two, three years from now I’ll really appreciate what happened.”
Now Mathers is focused on growing his game with a new team and style of play. He’s getting used to the Lights’ pressuring style, which worked wonders in a 4-1 win over the Sounders 2.
“That was our game plan,” forward Samuel Ochoa said. “As soon as they kick it back to the goalie, to go press.”
The Lights’ plan of attack eventually led to Mathers’ first goal this season, which the United Soccer League put at No. 3 in its Skills of the Week countdown. He hopes it’s the first of many, with the others getting more raucous celebrations.
”It’s very different being here in Vegas, but I love it,” Mathers said. “It’s a different sort of soccer than I’m used to, but I think it’s fun and exciting, and it embodies everything this team is trying to be about. I’m excited to be a part of it. The first three games have been really fun.”
Who: Lights FC (4-5-4) at Swope Park Rangers (7-4-4)
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Kansas City, Kan.
TV/Radio: KENO (1460 AM) (Spanish); ESPN+ (streaming)