It’s time once more for the Derby del Camino Real as New Mexico United caps off seven-straight appearances in El Paso
By Sombrero Man | Photo: Mackenzie McElroy
The final match of this 3-match road trip ends tonight when New Mexico United (4-4-2) takes on El Paso Locomotive FC (4-1-3) at Southwest University Park. A familiar site to United and one with many memories. United is coming off two tough results in their last two matches losing 3-1 to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and 3-2 against Real Monarchs.
United, in both matches, led at one point and scored first. In Colorado Springs it was a 1-0 lead and in Salt Lake City it was a 2-0 lead. United has graduated from slow starts for the time being to taking the initiative, which has led to these first half leads. Head Coach Troy Lesesne was asked if the challenge was getting and keeping a rhythm in those matches.
“I don’t know if I would term it that way. What I would say about it is that I like the fact that we have taken the initiative the last 2 games. We’ve gone up 1-nil and 2-nil and I think there are mistakes that have been made that are correctable. It’s not anything the opponent is doing to us. We’re self-inflicting type errors that we’re going to correct. And as long as we keep taking the initiative and taking the lead we’re gonna see out the game in the right fashion. I’m very confident in that this weekend in particular,” Lesesne said.
Lesesne said back around the first time United played Switchbacks FC that he felt his side was close to knowing what the on-field product was and that forecast was near 6 to 7 games into the season. Obviously, some things have gone different performance-wise. He offered another snapshot of the season ahead of tonight’s match against Locomotive FC.
“Through 10 matches what you’re seeing not only from us but throughout our division it’s tight. From first place to seventh place in our group the points are very tight so a few tweaks here or there for us and we’ll put more points on the table and we’re gonna do that for the next third of the season,” Lesesne stated.
The last time these two clubs duked it out in Chucotown, United got out of El Paso with one point but felt like it would have been three. A late equalizer by Leandro Carrijó saved Locomotive FC from dropping their season and home opener at the last minute. Locomotive FC is coming off a 3-2 loss to the first place team in the Mountain Division, the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. El Paso won the possession game 59% to RGV’s 41%, but was outshot 12 to 10 and had fewer shots on goal at 4 to 3.
Locomotive FC has recently announced the signing of midfielder Sebastian Velasquez. He re-joins the side after playing a season with Miami FC and Israeli Premier League’s Bnei Sakhnin F.C. Velasquez made the move back to the states when the international conflict between Israel and Palestine was a major threat to his safety. Velasquez also stated that El Paso is a major fit for him because of his personal and professional ties to the city.
Locomotive FC Head Coach Mark Lowry is happy to have Velasquez back on his roster because it allows him to always have two creative players on the pitch at the same time. Lowry has praised the synergy of 17-year old Diego Luna and Dylan Mares. He thinks Velasquez could rotate into that pairing or at best turn the duo into a trio.
Players to watch for El Paso are Logan Ketterer, Carrijó, and Jose Aguinaga. Let’s start with Ketterer who is arguably the best goalkeeper in the USL Championship. Ketterer early this season went on loan with the Portland Timbers of the MLS and made a huge impact. Starting in three matches he allowed only 3 goals and pitched two shutouts. One against the San Jose Earthquakes stopping a PK shot from the MLS’ all-time goal scorer Chris Wondolowski in a 2-0 win as well as shutting down LA Galaxy with a 3-0 Timbers win. Ketterer is a force and will make United work hard to get the ball in the net. Carrijó haunts the dreams of many United fans still with his late equalizer. Since that match, he’s appeared 7 more times but has not scored. Will seeing the black and yellow flip a switch in his head or will he stay scoreless. Finally, Aguinaga comes over from Phoenix Rising for the 2021 season. Aguinaga has tallied 1 goal in 4 matches but is a part of El Paso’s huge bench presence that makes the last 30 minutes of a match so hard.
Losing Amando Moreno to international duty has given some more players chances. The lineups between the Switchbacks and Monarchs cosmetically appeared differently. One noticeable change was the backline. Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh made the start together and that hasn’t happened all season long. Tetteh started the match against San Antonio FC. These starters are slated to earn their spots during training.
“We’re gonna pick the right group that gives us the best chance against El Paso,” Lesesne commented on the recent lineup change only to direct attention forward to the match against their derby rival this evening.
Whereas one might think the lineup on Wednesday was designed to rest Yearwood, Hamilton, and Tambakis. Still, after 8 games you’d think one training wouldn’t shift the backline. We’ll have to see what tonight’s lineup reveals.
Players to watch for United will be Josh Suggs, Andrew Tinari, and Yearwood. Suggs’ scoring streak ended at 2 last match but his defense was felt on the young Real Monarchs team. Suggs, a native of Las Cruces, New Mexico understands the New Mexico El Paso rivalry well. In year one during the middle of a skirmish at a center pitch, he came out of nowhere to hit an El Paso player hard. Expect him to be extrémale physical this match more than usual. Tinari found the back of the net in the last match for his first goal of the 2021 campaign. “I wasn’t looking to shoot but the chance was there so I took it,” Tinari recalled when asked this week at the media hour what he was thinking about as he attempted his strike. Tinari is a player that’s not scared to do the dirty work on defense and is also not scared to get in someone’s face. His shooting abilities and quick decision-making will help United as they try to get to Ketterer. Lastly, Yearwood is quietly having one amazing year. Yearwood, another good staple on United’s defense, looks to keep up his brick wall mentality and looks to help United keep El Paso at bay.
Sombrero’s Spin: This is a first-of-its-kind prediction here on Under The Sombrero but this game ends in a 2-2 draw. Both goalkeepers in this match are known for their lockdown saves, as well as, both teams having great defenses and offenses. A 2-2 draw is what I see in this one as United earns a point and heads home to play the Switchbacks on Friday.