EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The 2023 USL Championship regular season will kick off on Saturday. There are 10-games across the country on the schedule. One of those games will be El Paso Locomotive FC versus Sacramento Republic FC at Southwest University Park on Saturday night.
El Paso Locomotive FC hopes to start its landmark fifth season and the first season of the Brian Clarhaut era off on the right foot. Clarhaut is the club’s third ever head coach and technical director. Los Locos hope Clarhaut can lead them back to the playoffs after the team failed to make the postseason last year under former head coach John Hutchinson. Their new journey under Clarhaut starts on Saturday night at Southwest University Park against Sacramento Republic.
El Paso Locomotive FC and Sacramento Republic FC will go head-to-head on Saturday, Mar. 11 at Southwest University Park. Gates open at 6:00 p.m., kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
KTSM is the new official TV broadcast partner for Locomotive in 2023. Matches will air on Estrella TV 9.2 and simulcast on KTSM.com.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotion, a lot of fight and we need to match that fight. It’s a home opener, key word being “home,” Clarhaut said. “We have an advantage to play our style of football and we want to control the match in all aspects.”
With a win on Saturday, Clarhaut could become the first ever head coach in club history to lead the Locos to an opening day victory. The club’s opening day record is 0-2-2.
When you look at the all-time history between El Paso and Sacramento Republic, the Locos have been dominant. Los Locos lead the all-time series with a 5-1-0 record. Los Locos are also 4-0-0 when playing Sacramento at Southwest University Park.
Los Locos returned 16 players from that 2022 squad that missed the playoffs. That bunch along with the eight new additions hope to get the club back to its successful ways.
Key returners include 2022 Golden Boot winner Luis “Lucho” Solignac, who scored 16 goals in his second season with the club. Los Locos may be without Solignac in their first game of the season as he is listed as “questionable” ahead of matchday.
Gomez will look to be a force to be reckoned with up front as he enters his fifth season with the club. The 28-year-old forward is one of three players on the 2023 roster that have been with El Paso since its inaugural season in 2019. Those players being Gomez, veteran captain Yuma, and El Paso native Louis “Chapa” Herrera.
Some other key returners include El Salvador men’s international midfielder Eric Calvillo and Ricardo Zacarias, who shared the top spot for assists last season.
Los Locos added eight new players to the 2023 roster. Former La Liga and English Premier League defender Marc Navarro and new starting goalkeeper Benny Diaz from Liga MX side Club Tijuana are two new faces that are expected to contribute some major minutes to the team.
“Never in my career have I opened a season like this but everyone on the team is ready to help. Right now, we are focusing on Sacramento,” Yuma said. “We know how important this first game is to us and the fans, so after the match is done, we’ll turn our focus towards [the next two matches].”
Sacramento Republic FC aims to build off their very successful 2022 campaign. The club went 15-11-8, which was enough to finish fourth in the USL Championship Western Conference. Sacramento grabbed a quarterfinals win over New Mexico United and then fell to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the conference semifinals.
Sacramento Republic FC also went on a dream run in the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Sacramento beat MLS teams, San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Sporting Kansas City to become the first non-MLS team to reach the tournament final since 2008. Sacramento fell to MLS’ Orlando City SC in the final, but it was still a run that gave the club a lot of confidence moving forward.
Sacramento Republic FC returned some key players like veteran midfielder Rodrigo Lopez. Lopez was named to the USL Championship All-League First Team last season.
Other key returners include midfielder Luis Felipe, defender Jack Gurr and goalkeeper Danny Vitiello. Republic’s one major addition was former Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC forward Russell Cicerone, who’s scored double-digit goals in his last two seasons.