Story and Video by Luka Starmer
Reno 1868 FC returns to Greater Nevada Field for the home opener after the restart of the United Soccer League Championship (USL) on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7:15 p.m. However, the match will be played without fans, in compliance with local regulations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season was halted in March after the first regular season game of the USL.
The season began again in a modified tournament format in mid-July and continues through October.
The Reno team opened the season with three wins and a tie, including a win over Nevada rival Las Vegas Lights FC. Now they face the Tacoma Defiance, who have been hot since the restart, going 2-0-1. Back-to-back wins have Defiance second in Group A, and just two points behind Reno in first.
“Obviously, we’re really pleased with winning three road games; it’s hard to do,” said head coach Ian Russell. “You hope to go on the road and get some type of result, a tie is usually a pretty good result, but to get three out of four is a pretty big accomplishment.”
Reno’s early season success has been led by the defense. Through four games, Reno has allowed just three goals including a shutout against Las Vegas. Two new goalkeepers have been instrumental in the success. Rookie Eric De La Cerda was responsible for the shutout against Lights FC, notching six saves in just his second start. Fellow keeper Ben Beaury recorded six saves as well in his start against Sacramento, allowing just one goal.
On offense, midfielder Christiano François has led the charge for Reno since the restart, scoring a brace against Portland and assisting on Brent Richards’ game-winning goal against Las Vegas. For his efforts, François earned USL Player of the Week honors this week.
Although there won’t be fans in the stadium, there will be a way for fans to have their presence felt at Greater Nevada Field. Reno 1868 FC is hosting a poster drop-off event on Friday. Fan-made posters will be proudly displayed in areas behind the goals Saturday.
“We are certainly disappointed that we won’t be able to host fans in our return to Greater Nevada Field,” said general manager Doug Raftery. “However, the players and coaches are asking for your support in another way. We would love to have your passion for the club in the stadium on match day and this is the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Fan-made posters dropped off between noon and 6 p.m. at the Greater Nevada Field team shop will be displayed in the stadium at Saturday’s game. According to the team’s front office, all fans dropping off posters will also receive a 15% discount in the team store.
Signs are recommended to be as large as possible, with 24’ x 36’ being ideal. Posters containing any abusive or profane language or imagery will not be displayed. Please note that the team shop is currently cashless, and capacity inside will be limited. All fans in attendance are required to wear masks at all times.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. from Greater Nevada Field. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+, Nevada Sports Net and ESPN Radio 94.5.