EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — From February, through the month of April and the beginning of May, this has felt like the longest preseason in the history of sports for El Paso Locomotive FC. Three months down and a little under three weeks to go before they kickoff their 2021 campaign.
Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the season was pushed back to May 8 for El Paso. In a normal year, the season would have started in early March. As a result, Locomotive FC has played eight exhibition matches to stay sharp during the extended preseason, but with the regular season just around the corner, head coach Mark Lowry is balancing staying ready and not expending too much energy into matches that don’t count.
“The guys are in a good spot. They’ve peaked and they’re where they need to be at physically, mentally and tactically,” said Lowry. “We have to make sure we don’t plateau with the preseason extending. It’s going to be a lot of rest days and making sure guys remain well-rested. But when we train, we want to train with great intensity and not cut any corners.”
There are two league matches on the schedule this weekend and another 14 matches across the USL Championship before Locomotive FC will take the pitch against New Mexico United at Southwest University Park on Saturday, May 8 in their opener. It was a wrinkle in the schedule team officials were not expecting, but had to deal with.
“We have plenty of time to readjust and start concentrating on May 8,” said Locomotive FC forward Dylan Mares. “We are focused on what we need to do between now and the start of the season.”
It’s no secret in season’s past, Locomotive FC has had a difficult time staying healthy throughout the regular season. Lowry believes the club is in midseason form right now, however, the objective over the course of the next 16 days is to stay in peak form and stay healthy once the season begins.
“Everyone is getting through 90 minutes in preseason and the intensity is there for 90 minutes. It’s not like they’re doing 60 [minutes] and they become tired and fatigued,” said Lowry. “These guys this past weekend in Dallas went hard for 90 minutes and it’s hard work running full speed for 90 minutes. They’re ready to go.”
The coaching and training staff for Locomotive FC is coming up with creative ways to keep their their bodies fresh. Lowry has implemented a lot more video sessions into training which keeps his players locked in mentally.
“The coaching staff is doing a great job,” said Locomotive FC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer. “They keep on us and we don’t want to plateau or overwork to a point where you start falling off. We want to make sure we keep the intensity high.”
Everything counts beginning May 8 and for a team that has made runs to the Western Conference Finals in each of their first two seasons in the league, the countdown to the opener is on.
“We want to play a game where something is on the line,” said Lowry. “We’ve done a good job making sure the guys know we want to win every preseason friendly. We go out there to win every single game and we create that mentality every single day, but it does give it a little extra spice when it’s a league game — it’s the season opener, it’s New Mexico. We are ready for that moment.”