El Paso Locomotive FC host New Mexico United at Southwest University Park for their home opener
By Sombrero Man | Credit: DosPhoto
All aboard for the next stop to Chucotown! We’ve got ourselves a derby this weekend. El Paso Locomotive FC host New Mexico United at Southwest University Park for their home opener. It’s the first of a four-match series in the Derby del Camino Real rivalry.
Coming off a season-opening road loss to Rio Grande Valley FC, United will play their second match on the road and hope to spoil the evening for their host. The last time these two sides met, not including preseason, was in the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals. Locomotive FC edged out United in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of play.
The Conductors for Locomotive FC
We got our first taste of El Paso earlier this year in a friendly that did not go the way of United. Locomotive FC returns 13 players from the core of their team. United fans will remember Goalkeeper Logan Ketterer, Defender Yuma, Defender Macca King, Defender Mechack Jerome, Midfielder Dylan Mares, and Forward Leandro Carrijo and Josue Gomez amongst others. There are some new additions to the squad in Aidan Apodaca, Luis Solignac, and Jose Aguinaga to name a few.
This match will be a tough and scrappy battle so do not be surprised if a few yellow cards are given throughout this match. Speaking of yellow, let’s talk about United, who will be clad in their away kit featuring new sponsor New Mexico Tourism Department this Saturday night. United is coming off a tough 1-0 defeat to RGV in the valley. A deflection off of United Defender Kalen Ryden in the 65th minute put the Toros up for good against New Mexico. Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis put on a clinic of saves keeping United in the match for the entire 90 minutes. Defender Austin Yearwood helped Tambakis with some key takeaways from a few Toros earning him Pepsi Man of the Match.
Light Down the Tunnel
Well, what I anticipate the most in this matchup is the bad blood between Yuma and United’s Sergio Rivas. We got a glimpse of that in our first friendly of the year in which things between the two got a bit chippy. Yuma has been known to be a scrappy player, especially against New Mexico players as we saw it last year with Amando Moreno.
A loud crowd will be on hand for El Paso’s home opener and the first match of the year. Southwest University Park will be open at 70% to start the season for both Locomotive FC and for the Chihuahuas’ who ironically will open their first home game of the year against the Albuquerque Isotopes. The 8th notch will make sure to let United know they are there, but The Curse supporters group will make the trip down so that United is in great company.
Key players to watch in this match for El Paso for me will be Ketterer, Yuma, and Gomez.
Gomez comes back for another season for the Locos from sister club FC Juarez. In the pandemic shortened 2020 season, Gomez played in 17 games starting in 16 of them and finishing the season with 6 goals. The powerful left foot of Josue can rifle one into the back of the net if caught off guard.
Yuma returns for his third season as well. In 2020 he started 11 games he acquired 3 yellow cards none of which ironically came against the black and yellow.
Ketterer returns for year three for El Paso and looks to prove why many in the USL call him one of the best keepers in the USL. Starting all matches last season, he finished with 8 total clean sheets.
Key players to watch in this match for New Mexico are Brian Brown, Moreno, and Tambakis.
Brown is coming over for his first season in the land of enchantment and looks to make an impact right away. In our preseason we saw that strong boot and great playmaking abilities on full display. In the winding moments of last Saturday’s match, Brown got the best look of the night but just barely shanked it wide of the net for the equalizer.
Moreno made a huge impact last season scoring some very key goals for United. Something about playing in El Paso seems to bring a fire out of him that leads to an all-around display of athleticism.
Tambakis wowed many in his debut with the club by making some outstanding saves against the Toros. His lightning-fast reaction will come up huge in the match especially against the previously mentioned Gomez.
My match prediction if all holds:
I expect a 2-1 United victory with Tambakis coming up huge in the latter parts of the match, making some save-of-the-week type plays.