Clubs of all levels enter the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the United States - with different motivations and approaches.
Entering Wednesday night's 7:30 p.m. second round showdown with visiting USL Premier Developmental League club FC Tucson, Las Vegas Lights FC's approach is clear as day.
"Our best players, we will put them on the field, because that's what's best for our team," Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. "The U.S. Open Cup is going to be very useful for the coaches. You can take advantage of a lot of good things from this Open Cup."
A limited number of tickets for Wednesday's match - taking place at UNLV's Peter Johann Soccer Field - are available for $15 at LightsFC.com/USOpenCupTix, and will be available at the gates beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Match Day. There will be no television broadcast or live stream for Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup match.
The major potential benefits that can come for Lights FC from a successful outing Wednesday night are twofold.
One would be the obvious opportunity to advance in the U.S. Open Cup, with the allure of potentially facing MLS clubs beginning in the fourth round of competition. The winner of Wednesday's match travels to face the winner between fellow USL Western Conference club Orange County SC and Golden State force next Wednesday in California.
The second is another opportunity for Lights FC (2-2-4, 10 points in USL play) to simply compete. Coming off of Friday's tough 1-0 road defeat at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup match is sandwiched neatly between that loss and this Saturday's home contest at Cashman Field against Real Monarchs SLC, who currently sits in first place on the Western Conference table.
It's a golden opportunity to build some confidence and momentum before a crucial regular season match just 72 hours later.
"Obviously, it's a way to get right back into it - Playing for the first time in the Open Cup, it's a good way to bounce back from what happened this weekend, reset ourselves and get back to the normal us," Lights FC midfielder Matt Thomas said. "It's a good way to show what we are and how we can play."
Added Sánchez: "The best thing (for us right now) is playing and competing. Every game, every competition is a new story, a new beginning. In our case, it's better for us to be competing."
Lights FC midfielder Carlos Alvarez works the ball through traffic during the team's last home match - Saturday, May 5 - vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
LIGHTS FC NOTES HEADING INTO WEDNESDAY NIGHT
VALUABLE U.S. OPEN CUP EXPERIENCE: One player on the Lights FC roster with fond U.S. Open Cup memories is forward Sammy Ochoa, who was a part of two deep runs in the tournament during his time with MLS club Seattle Sounders FC (2011-13). The Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup in 2011, then lost in the final on penalty kicks to Sporting Kansas City in 2012.
"Hopefully we can get far, get a chance to play MLS teams," Ochoa said. "I think that would be good for both the city and the team."
HOW FC TUCSON GOT HERE: FC Tucson earned its trip north to Las Vegas with a 2-1 victory last Wednesday over La Maquina (Santa Ana, Calif.), marking its second straight year advancing to the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. Last season, FC Tucson fell to the USL's Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. As a PDL club, FC Tucson has advanced to the conference finals in three of its last four seasons, with a combined record of 39-7-9 in that 4-year stretch.
CHELÍS UPDATE: Lights FC Technical Director Chelís will serve the final piece of his 4-match USL suspension Saturday night when the club faces Real Monarchs SLC. In the meantime, Chelís will not be on the sidelines at UNLV Wednesday night, per U.S. Soccer Federation rules, which will prevent him from coaching while serving a USL suspension. Should Lights FC advance to next Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup third round, Chelís will be on the sidelines for the match.
INJURY UPDATES: Rounding back into form physically still is forward Juan Jose Calderon, who is working his way back from a lower body injury suffered in the preseason. Also out Wednesday night is fellow forward Juan Carlos Garcia, also recovering from a lower body injury.
Lights FC defender Miguel Garduño goes airborne to make a play against San Antonio FC at Cashman Field on April 27, 2018. (L.E. Baskow / Lights FC)
WHO TO KNOW FOR LIGHTS FC
Defender Joel Huiqui (#3) returns off of a one-match suspension for Yellow Card Accumulation, and will again anchor one of the USL's top back lines. The Mexican National Team and LigaMX veteran is second on the team in defensive clearances (45), leads the team in interceptions (20) and has also notched two goals so far in USL play.
Defender Miguel Garduño (#33) is another productive, consistent member of the Lights FC defense. His fearless play has helped him match up well in just about any situation on the pitch. Garduño leads the team in defensive clearances (62) and is second in duels won (63).
Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (#7) has been one of the club's top performers to start its inaugural season, with three goals and two assists in eight matches. A valuable two-way player, Alvarez is one of four players on the club to have played all 720 minutes so far this regular season.
Goalkeeper Ricardo Ferriño (#1) continues to steady his overall play in goal, balancing skill with calculated aggression when charging from the box to make plays and stymie offensive chances. His 28 goalkeeper saves are currently tied for the second-highest total in the USL.