EL PASO, Texas – El Paso Locomotive FC has been unstoppable in recent weeks. Just last week, the team played three games in seven days, earning a win and two draws – one of those draws coming despite being down two men for roughly 15 minutes. The full-team effort from the Locos has the team on a nine-game unbeaten run that it is aiming to extend with a statement win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this Saturday.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Southwest University Park, El Paso Locomotive will host a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that has established itself as a leader in the Western Conference this season. Touted as one of the best teams in the league for 2022, Switchbacks FC sits second in the West going into the weekend with 12 wins and only five losses in the season.

The Club from Colorado Springs is one of the most dynamic teams in the USL Championship right now, with nine goal scorers and eight players making assists. Of course, leading the attacking front is the 2021 USL Championship Golden Boot winner, Hadji Barry.

This year, Barry is once again fighting for the Golden Boot, tied for third in the league with 10 goals this season. The Guinean striker also leads his side with six assists making him one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league. As it stands, Colorado Springs Switchbacks has 36 goals in their 17 games, the third highest in the league right behind El Paso Locomotive’s 38.

Away from Weidner Field, Colorado Springs has seen a fair amount of success. With six wins and two losses, the Switchbacks side is just as successful on the road as it is at home. However, for the first time in the 2022 USL Championship season, the successful Switchbacks side finds itself toe-to-toe with El Paso Locomotive FC at Southwest University Park.

El Paso Locomotive and Colorado Springs Switchbacks have met in the regular season 10 times since 2019. After 10 matches, Switchbacks FC has never got the better of the Locos. Locomotive has earned a full three points in five games while the other five resulted in draws. At Southwest University Park, Locomotive holds a 4-0-1 record against Switchbacks FC and is hoping that it can extend that record with a statement victory.

“We want to play the best. We want to beat the best,” said Midfielder Eric Calvillo after training on Tuesday. “To be the be the best, you have to beat the best. From what the league says they are one of the best teams. Obviously, they have judged us from the beginning from the start that we had even though we know we are one of the best in this league, so this weekend is a statement to us and the whole league.”

The first weeks of the 2022 USL Championship season continues to haunt El Paso Locomotive FC. There is an air that Locomotive is still being judged by those first four games, despite the El Paso side only losing twice in the last 16 games. To claim three points against a Switchbacks side who has been dubbed as juggernaut in 2022 would be big statement that Locomotive is still one of – if not the – best team in the league.

When asked about what he sees in Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Head Coach John Hutchinson was quick to recognize Switchback FC’s success. He admitted the Colorado Springs side is a good team that has good attacking players and has been well coached to the success they’re seeing now.

Just before sharing praise for their weekend’s opponents form however, Hutchinson answered the question by saying “I think we’re the best team in the league.”

There is a lot to put weight behind Hutchinson’s claim. Going into the weekend of Week 18, El Paso Locomotive FC has the longest undefeated streak in the league with nine games. Tampa Bay Rowdies and San Antonio FC are the closest to matching the Locos streak with eight and five games undefeated respectively.

Aside from the success on the field, it’s the culture building in the club that makes El Paso Locomotive one of the best teams in the league.

“They have good character. It’s a good changing room with good people. They’ve shown it all year that they will fight for each other,” said Hutchinson. “Every game they have played this season the effort is always there and that’s something we appreciate as staff. Seeing them scoring late is no issues, seeing them scoring chances – at least we are creating them. We had a lot of chances to win in both [Rio Grande Valley and Atlanta] and we are working really hard on taking them but the effort from this team is always there.”

The effort of the squad has shown through the heart and the determination on the pitch. The team competes from the first to the final whistle. The work on the pitch all begins in training. Throughout training, the team is constantly working with one another to build on its defense – an effort that shown through five clean sheets in the last nine games. After the training session officially ends, the team works on their own to practice forward runs and shooting to clean up in front goal leading to Locomotive being the second highest scoring team in the league.

As two of the highest scoring teams, the Saturday night match between Locomotive and Switchbacks is set to be a spectacle. It will be another showcase of El Paso’s grit and locker room culture as the team looks to extend its league-best nine game undefeated streak.