EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – El Paso Locomotive FC enters Saturday’s USL Championship Western Conference Semifinals against rival New Mexico United as hot as any team in the world.
Los Locos ride a 12-match unbeaten streak into Saturday’s showdown, tied for the longest streak in all of American soccer with Louisville FC, a side in USL’s Eastern Conference.
El Paso has managed to continue the hot streak, despite season-ending injuries to three starters. Striker Omar Salgado and defender Chiro N’toko are both out for the year with torn ACLs, and defender Andrew Fox is out with a different knee injury.
Despite all the injured players, El Paso has continued to chug along, integrating new players into the roster, like Leandro Carrijo, who scored his first two goals for the in the dramatic Quarterfinals win over FC Tulsa.
Players like midfielder Yuma are playing out of position on El Paso’s backline, and haven’t missed a beat, allowing Locomotive to continue playing its preferred style.
“We’re different but we’re still finding ways to win,” head coach Mark Lowry said. “We’re finding ways to stick to our style and our philosophy, incorporating Leandro in as a different type of number 9, a different type of forward. It gives us a different look, but our identity is always the same.”
El Paso has a tough match in front of it on Saturday against New Mexico, a club it has played four times this season. The Group C foes beat each other once in the regular season, and also played to a pair of draws.
Locomotive FC has only beaten New Mexico once in its short history, and the rivalry fixture always gets testy. With a spot in the Conference Finals on the line, there won’t be any love lost.
“Every game we play against them, there’s always an edge to it. You don’t have to put a label on the game for it to be a high intensity, emotional game,” Lowry said. “The games with them are always different from any other team because it’s a rivalry game.”
El Paso and New Mexico square off for a fifth time this season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at Southwest University Park. The game can be seen on ESPN+.