Locomotive’s smothering defense produces win over Rio Grande in USL return

Locomotive+midfielder+Distel+Zola+heads+the+ball++over+a+crowd+of+Rio+Grande+Valley+defenders+in+a+1-0+victory+over+the+Toros+Saturday+July+11%2C+2020.

Michael Cuviello

Locomotive midfielder Distel Zola heads the ball over a crowd of Rio Grande Valley defenders in a 1-0 victory over the Toros Saturday July 11, 2020.

Michael Cuviello, Editor-in-Chief

The El Paso FC (Football Club) Locomotive brought sports back to the sun city for the first time Saturday since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all events in March. Playing in its first home game of the season and without fans, the Locomotive used a smothering defense to win its first game of the USL season over Rio Grande Valley FC Toros 1-0. 

For the first 82 minutes of the match, neither team was able to register a goal until in the 83rd minute. Midfielder Dylan Mares scored off a head pass from forward Josue Aaron Gomez for the only score of the night at that point. 

In his first season with the Locomotive, Mares had Head Coach Mark Lowry with lofty expectations for the season. “His performance was great,” Lowry said. “He’s a great player, and we know what he is capable of. We brought him in to score goals. You’re going to see Dylan get better and better and better. He fits our system.” 

Defensively the Locomotive was exceptional, not allowing a single shot on goal the entire match, with the majority of play being on the opposing teams side of the pitch. In two games this season, the Locomotive have not allowed a goal. 

Offensively especially in the first half, neither team was sharp as to be expected from the long layoff and lack of ability to practice. As the game wore on in the second half, one could easily see the Locomotive dominated control of the field with the ball and actually able to get shots on the Toros goal. 

It’s never going to be perfect early on,” Lowry said. “But once we got the first 45 out of the way, in the second half, some of the rust started to fall off. The tempo was so good. 

“The thing I’m most happy with is the way we came out and played,” Lowry said. The first half is always tough, especially the first game of the season. Getting in the rhythm of play, moving the ball was a little off. In the second half, I was extremely happy with the way we all came out and played, the way we moved the ball, the rhythm we had.” 

Overall, for the game, the Locomotives had 13 shots with seven on goal compared to the Toros six with none. Pressing much more often in the second half, the Locomotive seems the fresher and more talented team on the night. 

“We played with a different energy in the second half. The energy of the guys, the spirit of the guys, it was phenomenal in the second half. You saw the enthusiasm moving forward. The goal was a classic example. We had four players flying into the box and it falls to Dylan. When you run forward with that enthusiasm, that desire good things happen.” 

Considering that neither team had played in the 17 weeks since the USL shut down operations on March 12, the overall play in the match was as good as could be expected. With a stadium devoid of fans and the usual noises, both teams still gave a tremendous effort. 

Stands devoid of fans during the El Paso Locomotive’s first game of the season due to COVID-19 concerns Saturday July 11, 2020. (Michael Cuviello)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was amazed by how good the guys were, to be honest, considering we havent played for four months and we havent been able to train for three of those months properly with the shutdown, Lowry said. To do that after three weeks of full side training, just goes to show how good this group of players are and the desire and the passion they have. 

Moving to 1-0-1 on the season, the Locomotive will play its next game at home 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, again without fans in the stands. Depending on USL and area directives, the decision for fans for future games is still pending a decision. The games will be available on ESPN+. 

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]