The Buffalo train at Brave SC’s home complex in Summerfield.

The last time Brave SC took the field, many things were different.

The team had a different name, a different crest, and almost entirely different players from the Buffalo who will feature in Tuesday’s match.

Some things, however, never change for the Summerfield-based club.

“We were formed as The Villages SC and we’re keeping the same competitive spirit, the same style of play, the same philosophy,” head coach Anderson DaSilva said.

“What’s most important right now is to prove to our fans that, as Brave, we’re going to have the same success we always have.”

Brave will take the field for the first time under the new moniker Tuesday night in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, facing pro side Savannah Clovers FC of the National Independent Soccer Association.

This marks the franchise’s sixth appearance in the Open Cup, but the first time in the club’s history that it will play host to a professional opponent.

“That’s a big deal because now we’re calling attention to our hometown,” DaSilva said. “It serves as a little bit of an edge for us, as well, playing at home. This is a new stadium for us, too, but it’s still our home.”

To accommodate Open Cup standards and make the most of the occasion, Brave SC partnered with a local youth sports club, the Buffalo Stampeders, to host Open Cup matches at The Villages High School’s new campus.

“We’re incredibly excited and honored to be able to host a piece of this event, which we consider to be the pinnacle of U.S. Soccer,” said Marty Dzuro, who serves as the Stampeders’ vice president, as well as the event and venue operations manager at VHS. “We also look forward to hosting the first professional competition ever held at The Villages High School’s Middleton campus.”

The Buffalo earned their place in the Open Cup following a Southeast-Division-winning USL League Two campaign, which ended in the 2023 league semifinals.

With the USL2 season still months away, though, Brave SC will have a very different roster from both last summer and the coming one. DaSilva assembled the lineup with a few available pieces from previous teams, some from the club’s UPSL squad, some who will or hope to roster with the first team in 2024, and others who joined the team simply for the chance to play in the Open Cup.

“I see the Open Cup as a big opportunity for us players to get on the map, play against a professional team,” defender Joao Camargos said. “It’s a big opportunity for us to play on a high level, be competing and get prepared for USL2.”

Tuesday’s roster will also feature two local players who came up through Brave SC’s youth programs. Senior striker Michael Florian and junior defender Joel Hernandez of The Villages High School will each make their first appearance on an Open Cup roster.

The Buffalo prepared intensely for the Clovers as they would for any opponent — with the expectation they’ll be getting their best game.

“I’m definitely grateful for this opportunity I’ve been given,” Florian said. “I’ve been trying to make the most out of it, every practice… learn from the guys around me who have experience at the level I want to be at.”

For the Buffalo, a short training period left little time to instill the club’s typical play style. Instead, DaSilva has curated a game plan around the strengths of his roster while still maintaining certain club standards.

“For players who have never played with us, playing our style takes time and a lot of practice, but we also don’t want the players to feel a lot of pressure,” the coach said. “We’re bringing players in and they have their own way to play, so we’re playing more unpredictably and making adjustments to how we play. The main focus for us was to organize them.”

The Buffalo hope to continue their Open Cup streak after advancing beyond the first round of the tournament in each of their last two appearances. However, they’ll have to defeat the professional Clovers, who finished eighth of nine teams on the NISA table last season, but ended the year in better form and Brave SC won’t be taking them lightly.

“We face every opponent the same way,” DaSilva said. “We put in the same amount of work.”

Brave SC and Savannah Clovers FC will kick off at 7 p.m. at H.G. Morse Stadium at The Villages High School (2210 Dr. Randy McDaniel Way) in Middleton. Admission will be free.

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