By Josh Kaskinen | Photo: Josh Lane/NM United
For the second time in as many matches, New Mexico United will be facing the team on top of the standings in Group C.
This time, they’ll be taking on El Paso Locomotive FC at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas. It will be the first of two fixtures (matches) scheduled back-to-back for the sides. The rivalry between United and their southern opponent has been dubbed the Rio GranDerby.
What was just two matches last season has doubled to four this year. The Curse and 8th Notch supporters groups will have to decide how to commemorate the 2020 edition of this showdown.
What’s A Derby?
For readers who might still be green to soccer terms that originate in the UK that we’re using here in the US, a derby (UK: /ˈdɑːrbi/ DAR-bee, US: /ˈdɜːrbi/ DUR-bee) is a match between two rivals in a close proximity geographically. (Source: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/derby)
Current Standings on the Table
Locomotive FC currently sit one point ahead of both Colorado Springs and New Mexico with 4 points for the lead in Group C, thanks to a 0-0 draw with Orange County SC on March 6, and a 1-0 victory on Saturday against Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday.
Gaps to Fill
In New Mexico United’s victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday, they were without the services of Josh Suggs, Rashid Tetteh, Justin Schmidt and Joris Ahlinvi. Both Schmidt and Tetteh were listed on the injury report, and Head Coach Troy Lesense seems optimistic about the time table for the return of all four players:
“It is amazing that you had Rashid Tetteh, Justin Schmidt, and Josh Suggs who were three out of our four backs last season and they were out in the first match. And Joris was also out but, you know, Joris is just returning back into market, so he’s actually gonna travel with us [to El Paso], which we’re excited about. In regards to those three, Rashid and Justin are just dealing with a little bit of an injury that they’re rehabbing.There still in that same position and I think they’re trending toward coming back here very soon. Suggs the same thing, he’s back into training now, and again it’s just about getting him back into speed and fitness. Josh is not injured like Justin and Rash are. In terms of the timetable I think Josh is a little bit closer than the other two.”
United will also be without another defender in Manny Padilla, who was suspended by the club yesterday as they conduct an internal investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Padilla that stem from his time at the University of San Francisco.
Across the Tracks: Locomotive FC
As for El Paso, they are a strong defensive team, thanks to the likes of Drew Beckie, Chiro N’Toko, Mechak Jerome, Eder Borelli and goalkeeper Logan Ketterer, who returns for his second season in El Paso after recording 13 clean sheets in 35 appearances a season ago.
One aspect Locomotive has struggled with so far in the early goings of this season is in scoring goals. The lone goal of their 2020 campaign so far was scored by Aaron Gomez in the win against RGV last weekend. Much like New Mexico United, many of their top scorers and playmakers from last season have gone on to play elsewhere, including Jerome Keissewtter (Inter Miami FC), Sebastian Velazquez (The Miami FC) and Alexy Bosetti (returned to his home country of France). The club has brought in players to try to address the scoring issue, including Marios Lomis (North Carolina FC) and Leandro Carrijo (FC Juarez).
When asked about how he goes about preparing for a team like El Paso on such a short turn-around between matches, especially considering how much different the club looks from a year ago, Lesesne had this to say:
“We got back late from the bus trip on Sunday, made sure to get the guys tested…then it’s really just about the physical recovery, looking at some film, and really making sure the guys, besides the physical component, are mentally ready to know how we’re gonna line and and know where El Paso’s strengths are, and where their weaknesses are to where we can exploit it.”
In order to exploit those weaknesses, New Mexico United will have to bring their A-game. If the backline can limit the chances, and if New Mexico can limit ways to score, they should be able to come out with at least a point in this one.