Lights FC played its first home match on a natural soccer field Wednesday and coincidentally it came away from Cashman Field.
The change of scenery benefited Lights forward Sammy Ochoa.
Ochoa scored his first two goals of the season to lift the Lights to a 4-2 victory over FC Tucson at UNLV Peter Johann Soccer Field in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. It was Las Vegas’ debut in the long-running tournament.
“One hundred percent,” Ochoa said when asked if he liked the grass better at UNLV than at Cashman Field. “Not complaining on the grass over there, but there are patches where it’s slippery. Here it’s a perfect pitch.
“You can’t complain here.”
Ochoa, the only Lights’ member to play every minute this season, broke a 2-2 tie in the 56th minute. Five minutes later, he found the back of the net again.
The Lights broke a five-match winless streak and picked up their first victory since defeating Swope Park Rangers on March 31.
Las Vegas advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup and will face FC Golden State Force on the road May 23. The Premier Development League club defeated Orange County SC 4-2 in its second-round match Wednesday.
The winner of Lights-Golden State will play a Major League Soccer club in the fourth round.
Las Vegas jumped to a 2-0 lead early in the first half with goals from Carlos Alvarez (fifth minute) and Marcelo Alatorre (ninth minute). FC Tucson tied the score in the 49th minute after AJ Valenzuela found the back of the net.
The Lights didn’t play behind a diamond shape stadium, but the match atmosphere felt like a Cashman crowd. The club’s two llamas made an appearance, the “Luz y Fuerza” flags were waving and the drums were beating for 90-plus minutes.
Even the announcer was confused about the location when he welcomed the fans to Cashman before correcting himself.
Las Vegas couldn’t play at Cashman Field because the pitch wasn’t ready in time after the 51s baseball team wrapped up an eight-game homestand Tuesday.
It was the United Soccer League expansion club’s first home match away from Cashman Field. The second-round U.S. Open Cup match wasn’t on the schedule until last week.
Ochoa is used to making deep runs in this tournament. He was a member of the Seattle Sounders when the MLS club won the 2011 U.S. Open Cup and finished second 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.”
Lights technical director Jose Luis Sanchez Sola will serve the final piece of his four-match suspension Saturday when the club faces Real Monarchs SLC at Cashman Field.
“Chelis” was not on the sidelines Wednesday because U.S. Soccer Federation rules prevent him from coaching while serving a USL suspension.