Ah, the end of vacation. It always brings a sense of dread to get back to the routine. Except when you’re coming back from Las Vegas that is. The difference between a trip to Sin City and say, camping (aside from the prevalence of the cosmetically enhanced), is that unless you’re doing the trip with family/kids, or not doing the Strip/Fremont, you’re really doing things at 2.5x the speed (okay, maybe 1.5x speed for me these days). Time is relative; unless you have set plans, anything you’re doing has a 45-60 minute margin for error. And being late doesn’t matter, since everything is always open.

While it’s not everyone cup of tea, I love Vegas. I still remember my first trip in 1999. Met some college friends out for Spring Break. I had no clue about gambling. I tried Craps, and lost nearly all my money in about 25 minutes. And I was there for four days. But it was a memorable trip; you never forget your first time, after all.

These days I don’t indulge in as many of the purely “Vegas” aspects of the experience. It helps that my brother lives in the area, so I can spend some time off strip taking in some of the more local flair, whether that is a bar or a cigar lounge. And I always enjoy checking out his store, even if it makes me feel drastically under-dressed when I walk in.

I’ve been to Vegas probably around 30, 35 times (I’d go 4/5 times per year in my younger days), and some trips have been more memorable than others of course. But something always interesting happens, even when the memories fade with time. It’s the experience that matters.

And so it was with the inaugural trip to Vegas with ECS. When the Las Vegas Lights team was announced, and the schedule listed, it was definitely a date that was circled on the calendar. Even being scheduled in mid-June wasn’t much of a deterrent; it was guaranteed to be hot, but there was a chance it wouldn’t be surface-of-the Sun hot. In keeping with how ECS does things (i.e., not half-assed and with no shortage of alcohol), we decided that the first time should be memorable.

So as we do, the group decided that the pre-funk needed to be just that extra bit special. Of course, that meant a pool party at the Flamingo. Now, when you’ve got 18 people descending on a pool, it behooves one to obtain an appropriate location. That obviously means: Cabana.

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This allowed the fairer-skinned among us refuge from the Sun, and watch some World Cup fun. Amusingly, with the cabana rental, there comes a minimum amount you have to spend on food/drinks. Safe to say that wasn’t a problem.

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Beyond all of the boozy antics, it was a great time to spend with good friends.

About the only setback was the timing of the performance by Naughty By Nature. Unfortunately they were scheduled to perform late in the afternoon, and didn’t get on stage until around 3:30.

That meant most had to leave to get ready for the “March to the Match” to Cashman Field to watch the Sounders 2 take on the Lights. And you didn’t want to miss out on this March.

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There is definitely something about taking a stretch limo to a USL game, though in Vegas, perhaps it’s not nearly so unique. It definitely amps up the party atmosphere, and who doesn’t like to feel like a late-90s rap star? Actually, the cost was very reasonable. For about the cost of a Uber (if you have 18 of your closest friends it helps), your group can ride in style.

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From there, it was inside the stadium, and I can only think that the Sounders 2 players were slightly bemused by the sight of 65-70 supporters singing and drumming and waiving flags at an away game 1200 miles away from home at converted baseball stadium. The 8:00 p.m. start time was extremely helpful; it was a downright pleasant night, with a strong breeze proving some relief, though it didn’t help the play on the field (it did make waiving flags and two-poles and interesting experience).

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Unfortunately for the away supporters, S2 looked like they were the ones that had been drinking by the pool in the Sun all day, as a number of preventable mistakes led to some unfortunate goals. Down 3-0, S2 provided some hope when Ray Saari scored a great goal. But when Las Vegas got their fourth, the wind was taken out of the sails, and both sides seemed to be going through the motions for the last 30 minutes.

As for the venue, Cashman Field is about as bare bones as it gets. There were the usual halftime antics that populate lower-level sports in the country, but it was amusing for what it was. There is definitely a tackiness which the Lights embrace, and good for them.

With ECS, it was kind of the best of both worlds, as we got to explore the strip, yet take quick trips outside the chaos to check out some of the local spots. So that was the inaugural ECS trip to Las Vegas. It was a good time, and you can see why this would be a good MLS market. They have a decent fan base for lower level soccer, and it’s an easy flight for western teams, meaning good away support. The 8:00 pm start time really mitigates the heat issues, though as I said, we got a bit lucky with the weather and a strong breeze. It’s a trip I recommend to take in some soccer, even if Vegas isn’t necessarily your thing.

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