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Into the light: Previewing River Light FC’s debut season

By: Rodrigo Perez

River Light FC: Pre-season Writeup

After over seven months of anticipation, River Light kicks off their first USL League Two game today, and despite this being their first trip around the Heartland Division, the expectations are just as high as the anticipation.

“On both teams, we brought in enough talent where the expectation is to make the playoffs,” Head coach Charlie Latshaw said.

Bringing two summers of experience at the USL League Two level and a Heartland Division Championship, Latshaw brought back a lot of the same players that helped him achieve that

early success.

“I know it's a different club but personally I'd like to win back to back Heartland Championships,” Latshaw said. “We brought over a number of players that we've had in the past. I think it's somewhere around 30 [players] that played for us either 2022 or 2023.”

While Louisville’s Axel Alejandre and Portland’s Nick Fernandez are familiar with Latshaw and his coaching staff, there’s one player in particular that the former Chicago City SC coach is excited to work with for the first time.

“I'm excited to work with Noeh Hernandez, who played for the Puerto Rico national team,” Latshaw said. “Well behind that, it's hard to point to any single player because there's so much talent and so many unique characteristics that I really enjoy working with.”

Hitting the field earlier this month, River Light has found early success against Midwest Premier League sides Edgewater Castle FC and Strikers Fox Valley, defeating both teams by 6-1 margins. Friendlies like these serve as a good way to see different players in actual game scenarios, before the first starting 11 is published for the first official competitive match of the season.

“I've been trying to play a completely different 11 players in those friendlies and each half,” Latshaw said. “There's not much in terms of tactics that we're really focusing on, we just want to get used to the players.”

“Have the staff comfortable with what the players' qualities and attributes are before we get to an actual competitive game,” Latshaw added.

In terms of how the team will look on the field, Latshaw plans on displaying an attacking style of play with heavy possession, mixed with an urgency to win the ball back when it falls into enemy hands.

“What you'll see is a lot of passing, we focus on manipulating the opposition, creating space for ourselves to operate in the final third and it's very fast and free flowing and it's fun to watch, Latshaw said.

Playing in the Heartland Division, River Light will face many tough away games against some of the established members of the conference like the Des Moine Menace, St Charles FC, Chicago City SC and Peoria City.

However, River Light isn’t the only debutant in the conference, as they start their USL journey against Joliet-based Sueno FC this Saturday.

“The Heartland is a strong place to play in and they're difficult road venues to play in,” Latshaw said. “In general, there’s a lot of very talented players coming out of the Midwest and we know that every single game is gonna be tricky and it's gonna be tough.”

The men’s side travels to Barrington as they face Sueno FC at Saturday at 7 p.m., while the women’s team plays their home opener against the Chicago Dutch Lions on Sunday at 5 p.m.

“On the unity front everybody's on the same page, everybody's really enjoying being in this environment and I know as a staff, it's been very pleasant and comparable to the environments that we've had in years past,” Latshaw said. “And I think what you'll see, certainly, on both teams is really good soccer being played out of Aurora,” Latshaw added.


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