El Paso, TEXAS – This weekend El Paso Locomotive FC travels to play San Diego Loyal SC for the first time in franchise history, with both teams having been in separate groups and divisions in the 2020 and 2021 USL Championship seasons.
The match is set to be played at Torero Stadium on Sunday, April 3 with an afternoon kickoff set for 3:00 p.m. MT. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.
By the time El Paso Locomotive FC kicks off against Landon Donovan’s men, it will have been a long 10 days since the chaos that the nine-goal stunner against Las Vegas Lights FC. During the break, El Paso has had players earning minutes abroad on international duty, while the players remaining worked carefully and diligently to clean up loose ends that were left exposed in the opening three games of the season.
It was something that Head Coach John Hutchinson acknowledged in his post-game press conference after Las Vegas Lights FC – Locomotive will continue to work on its transition phases.
The fruition of El Paso Locomotive’s attack shined against Las Vegas Lights. Locomotive found four goals in rapid succession to keep in the game and leave Las Vegas Lights sweating until the final whistle at the end of 90 minutes. The high-press and aggressive style that Hutchinson likes to employ can pay off in an astounding number of goals.
“We’ve spoken about [the game against Las Vegas] as a team and as a group,” said Hutchinson after training on Tuesday. “There are signs of our football definitely coming through and how we want to play the game. From Day 1 I’ve told them it’s going to be difficult. It is difficult to sustain that for 90 minutes and there are going to be key components in our principles that we need to focus on.”
In training through the break, Hutchinson and his men have focused on those key moments in transition and defensively. Recognizing there are key areas that need to be worked on, Hutchinson is still a big believer in the kind of play Locomotive has been playing and now the focus is to continue putting it together to sustain for the full 90 minutes of the game.
With 10 days off to reset, recuperate, and focus on those key moments, Locomotive is eager to start getting the 2022 USL Championship season on track.
San Diego Loyal is likely not going to make that goal easy, having kicked off the 2022 season with nine points after four games. Most recently, Loyal improved their season record with a massive 3-2 statement win over Phoenix Rising FC. Of their four games played this season, two were on their home turf of Torero Stadium, both of which were wins against LA Galaxy II and Sacramento Republic.
Led by USMNT and LA Galaxy legend Landon Donovan, Loyal has felt destined to be successful. Their inaugural season in 2020 was cut short with a condensed season and a missed playoff appearance while 2021 saw better results with a playoff appearance, though an early exit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
“They’re a good team with a good start,” commented Hutchinson. “They beat Phoenix Rising on the weekend away from home which is no easy game. Phoenix is a difficult place to go and get points. Again, the focus has to be on us. We know if we can sustain what we are trying to do for 90 minutes and play our football then we can beat any team in this league.”
While 2022 has proven to be a great start, FC Tulsa has shown that San Diego Loyal isn’t infallible. In Oklahoma, Loyal fell 1-0, showing they can be beaten despite holding tightly to second in the Western Conference.
“We are really focusing on winning the ball back as high up of the park as we can,” Hutchinson noted. “Especially against a San Diego team who will look to build. It will give us an opportunity to press them really high and win the ball back and hopefully win it back in good areas where we can get our attackers in front of goal.”
As Locomotive heads into California for two games in 72 hours, it does so with as for the first time in the season with a full roster of 22 players and the Locomotive Academy. With the international window closed the four called-up players have made their return and are available for Hutchinson beginning Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to that,” said Hutchinson with a smile. “I’m looking forward to having our team together and working on our football and our principles. We will travel with our full squad and staff. We will take them all to San Diego and then to Fresno for the Open Cup game. It will be a good time to get some work done off the field in terms of bonding and growing. Two games where we are hoping to get the positive results that we are looking for and probably deserve based off the football we’ve played in the last three games. I know results can be difficult, but we are creating chances and scoring goals.”
El Paso Locomotive takes on San Diego Loyal on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. MT and against Central Valley Fuego FC on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. MT. Both games will be broadcast live on ESPN+ with Sunday night’s match also being broadcast nationally on ESPN Deportes.