Locomotive take on group rival New Mexico United

El+Paso+midfielder+Dylan+Mares+penetrates+the+RIo+Grande+defense+taking+an+opposing+player+off+his+feet+with+his+footwork+Saturday+July+11%2C+2020.

Michael Cuviello

El Paso midfielder Dylan Mares penetrates the RIo Grande defense taking an opposing player off his feet with his footwork Saturday July 11, 2020.

Michael Cuviello, Editor-in-Chief

The El Paso Locomotive (1-0-1) takes on cross-state rival New Mexico United (1-1) tonight at 7 p.m. at Southwest University Stadium in a crucial matchup that will determine first place in Group C.   

Both teams are coming off wins in the return of the USL (United Soccer League) from the COVID-19 hiatus. The Locomotive are coming off a 1-0 victory where it held Rio Grande Valley to no shots on goal and United pulled out a 2-1 win on the road at Colorado Springs. 

New Mexico won its last game at the 87-minute mark with a goal by Christopher Wehen and held Colorado to only one shot on goal in 12 chances. Half of New Mexico’s shots were on target, with five out of its 10 total shots. Shot accuracy was the defining factor in the match even though Colorado took more shots and had a slight possession advantage with 52 minutes to 48. 

El Paso won its last game in about the same manner allowing no shots on goal and minimizing chances to a total of 7. Dominating the time of possession, the Locomotive controlled the ball for 66 minutes to 44 for Rio Grande. The Locomotive controlled the game with aggressive defense and short controlled accurate passes keeping Rio Grande on its heels for most of the match. 

Last year only four points separated the two teams in the final standings in the group. New Mexico beat El Paso  3-0  at home and tied 2-2 in Southwest University Stadium last year. Missing second team All-USL midfielder Santi Moar from New Mexico United’s 2019 roster could give El Paso an edge when it comes to talent on the field along with its own new additions. 

Kevaughn Frater, last year’s leading scorer for New Mexico, is also not with the team after signing to play in Israel Premier League for Maccabi Netanya. Forward Devin Sandoval is New Mexico’s leading returning scorer with 13 goals last season. Midfielder Wehen is the second leading returning scorer with 10 goals last season. 

The Locomotive have some departures of its own after  last year’s leading scorer Jerome Kiesewetter  moved on to the Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, which is owned by soccer legend David BeckhamGoalie Logan Ketterer has not allowed a goal in two games this season and last season finished fourth with 13 clean sheets, which is soccer terminology for a shutout. 

For the second game in a row, there will be no fans present at the game. The game will be televised live on ESPN+. 

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]