Locomotive advance to home playoff game


Rebecca Reza

El Paso Locomotive FC fans of the 8th notch do its game day ritual across Durango bridge Oct. 15.

Rebecca Reza, Contributor

El Paso Locomotive Football Club (FC) upset 3rd seeded Fresno FC on the road to earn a historic first home playoff match in the semi-final round of the United Soccer League (USL) playoffs. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez came through with a goal on a penalty kick in the 83rd minute of the tightly contested matchup.  

“That’s for you [El Paso],” said head coach Mark Lowry. “Playoffs are tough. Every game is essentially a final. That wasn’t just a win tonight. That was coming home to give the El Paso community a playoff game and not just a play-in round, it’s a semifinal playoff game. It’s going to be a great occasion and that one was for you guys [El Paso].” 

Despite having its six-game unbeaten streak broken by a shutout loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy II, the Locomotive were able to regroup and pull off the expansion team’s first playoff win in history. Despite the loss, the team earned the highest seed of any expansion club, sitting in sixth place of the Western Conference standings.  

“The body of work this season has been pretty good, sixth place is not a bad finish for a first-year franchise in a very tough division,” Head Coach Mark Lowry said in a social media post by the team.  

2019 saw plenty of highs and lows for El Paso’s inaugural seasonlosing their historic season opener in March to being tied for the lead in the ConferenceLocomotive official supporters group, The 8th Notch, had to wait until the fourth match before celebrating the first win for the club.  

A series of injuries and national team call-ups thinned the bench for Lowry. In April, the team signed Jerome Kiesewetter, the first of several additions throughout the season, including Colombian Sebastian Velasquez, and Mexican Josué Aarón Gómez on loan from FC JuarezKiesewetter quickly became an integral part of El Paso’s front line, netting a total of 12 goals in the regular season. Star Defender Mechack Jérôme ended his season abruptly after rupturing his Achilles playing in the Gold Cup for Haiti.   

El Paso would find their stride with the passing weeks, notching a 10-game unbeaten streak before falling to a two-month winless drought during the summer.  

The playoffs were hanging in the balance after a draw against Austin Bold FC last Tuesday, Oct. 10. Two important points hung in the balance, lighting a fire in the players for their match against the Portland Timbers 2, winning 4-1 to become the first expansion side to clinch playoff spot. The Locomotive also earned the highest passing accuracy in the USL, using Coach Lowry’s European style of play. 

“We’ve got to get better if we want to have a good run through the playoffs,” Lowry added. “It’s important that we perform in every game, no matter what the situation. It’s been a good season, but we’ve got to play better than that. 

El Paso will push full steam ahead in the #Track2TheTrophy, when they play the first home USL playoff game in El Paso history versus the Sacramento Republic FC 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at University Park.