The Copa Tejas title defense starts now.

El Paso Locomotive FC is heading to Eastern Texas to play San Antonio FC at Toyota Field on Saturday, April 16. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.

After dominating the Texas competition in 2021, El Paso Locomotive walked away with the supporter-run trophy in hand following a dramatic rally to earn a 3-3 draw against San Antonio at Southwest University Park. Now the Sun City club will test its mettle as Copa Tejas champions as the team looks to defend the title and secure it again for a second straight year.

“It’s always fun when you have something to play for,” Midfielder Dylan Mares commented ahead of Saturday’s regular season match up. “It’s been great having that in the past to say at least you won something throughout the year. It’s going to be a fun and exciting game, as they normally are.”

Even with the extra motivation of Best in Texas bragging rights, the El Paso side knows this is going to be a challenging game.

While historically, Locomotive has done well against their San Antonio counterparts, holding a 3-2-2 record in all-time regular season competition, the two clubs have mirrored each other to start the 2022 USL Championship season.

El Paso Locomotive has just stepped out of the gate, picking up its first three points of the season with a massive decisive victory against Monterey Bay F.C., but has had difficulties earning results ahead of that. Meanwhile, San Antonio FC has secured the win in four of its five games, only dropping all three points to Phoenix Rising FC.

Despite the night and day comparison of the two teams to start the season, when asked, Locomotive Head Coach John Hutchinson wasn’t fazed. He and the Locomotive staff know San Antonio FC is a good team and will be putting their best foot forward, but they will be taking this game just like any other this season.

“We are going there to win,” Hutchinson said post-training on Tuesday. “Again, we know our deficiencies – the long balls and defending at times – but I thought we covered that really well on the weekend just gone. We worked on that again today at training so, as always, my principles are to look at us. What can we do to them? We don’t want to change what we do for them; we want them to change what they do for us. Even though we are playing away, we are going to take our football, the way we want to do our style, and hopefully, we can come back with a big smile on our faces with our first away victory.”

After the blowing past Monterey Bay, Hutchinson and his men wanted more. Post-game Coach Hutchinson felt that Locomotive should have walked away from Saturday night with seven or eight goals in the night. While five goals and a clean sheet were a positive and a sign of everything clicking for El Paso, the team is aiming to improve and build off what they have started to get going.

“There is always room for improvement,” said Mares. “There are areas we just need to tighten up and make sure we are fully taken care of before we into these games. Different teams bring different things and have different attributes from their players. We just need to make sure we are ready and prepared for the next game and go game-by-game.”

Throughout the week, Locomotive continued to work on their transitions and defending as a full team from front to back. The team will continue to employ a high press that will look to snuff out an opposing attack before it can get started. Once the Locos have regained possession in the attacking half, it turns into creating opportunities and scoring goals.

With a full roster in training, it’s been easier to get the entire team on board with the same principles of how Coach Hutchinson wants to play this season. Everyone is learning and working together at the same pace, fighting for a spot in the Starting XI come Saturday, giving Hutchinson and his staff a lot to think about.

“That gives us a full roster of players to choose from,” commented Hutchinson. “That’s a nice position for us to be in. We want competition. I want my hardest thing to do is to pick the squad. That’s what I want my hardest job to be because if that’s hard then I know the competition is fierce I know the players are up for the game and they are ready to go.”

From the first man on the roster page to the last, everyone is ready to go for what lies ahead in San Antonio this weekend. The whole squad is aiming to keep the momentum from Monterey Bay going to pick up another win and another clean sheet. It won’t be easy, and the team knows it won’t be able to repeat the 5-0 performance every single week, as much as they would love to. Instead, they will focus on what they can control, and as Dylan Mares said, they will take it game-by-game.

The team is focused on winning against San Antonio and wants to dominate this weekend, just as they did the last. The team wants to start the Copa Tejas title defense strong.