Locomotive FC set for first place battle at Rio Grande Valley FC

Locomotive FC

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — After a full 12 days off, El Paso Locomotive FC is set to take the pitch on Wednesday night in a first place battle against Rio Grande Valley FC. Kickoff at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas, is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT.

Locomotive (4-0-3, 15 points) remains the only unbeaten team in the USL Championship and are ranked No. 1 in the league’s power rankings. El Paso in unbeaten in their last 18 regular season matches dating back to August of 2020 and come into this match against the Toros (5-3-2, 17 points) with a full head of steam.

“We have to go in there with focus and concentration. Those are the key words going into an away game at RGV,” said Lowry. “They are dangerous and they have some good players, but if we stay organized and disciplined in our approach to the game for the full 90 minutes, we’ll be able to get a result.”

Locomotive beat the Toros earlier this season, a 1-0 result in El Paso back on May 22. Lucho Solignac scored the match’s only goal, deflecting a clearance from RGV goalkeeper Tyler Deric into the back of the net 18 seconds into the match — the fastest goal in Locomotive franchise history and the fastest goal scored this season in the USL Championship.

“It’s going to be another good game. They’ve had a good start to the season, much like we have,” said Locomotive FC midfielder Richie Ryan. “We had a good game against them already this season and hopefully we can have a slightly better performance and the same result.”

It’s a big week for Lowry’s lads. A win on Wednesday would give El Paso three points and catapult them into first place in the Western Conference Mountain Division. Locomotive will then turnaround and host New Mexico United (4-3-2, 14 points) on Saturday, which will also have major implications in the standings.

“We have to go into the week fully focused and make it nine games unbeaten,” said Lowry. “It’s going to require the whole squad with those two games — Wednesday and again on Saturday — in a quick turnaround.”

Locomotive Lowdown (Courtesy: EP Locomotive FC)

MATCH DETAILS: USL Championship Regular Season Game #8; at Rio Grande Valley FC; 6:00 p.m. MT kickoff

VENUE/WEATHER: H-E-B Park; Edinburg, Texas; Forecasted 91F, 40% of rain and thunderstorms.

WATCH PARTY: The Union Drafthouse (12040a Tierra Este Road)

WATCH: ESPN+

RECORDS/STANDINGS: Locomotive: 4-0-3 (15 points, MTN-2); RGVFC: 5-2-3 (17 points, MTN-1)

PREVIOUS MEETING: Locomotive topped RGV earlier in the season with 1-0 on the scoreboard. Lucho Solignac scored the lone goal deflecting a clearance from RGV goalkeeper Tyler Deric in the 18th second – the fastest goal in Locomotive franchise history and the fastest goal scored so far in the 2021 USL Championship season.

THE TRAIN KEEPS ROLLING

Say it louder for the people in the back: 18-GAMES UNDEFEATED. Locomotive keeps rolling in games as it rapidly approaches the league record for the longest unbeaten streak in the regular season. Locomotive has not lost a regular-season game since the start of August 2020 and is currently the only undefeated team in the USL Championship. Now on the road against RGVFC, Locomotive is aiming to keep the streak going and to claim the record from FC Cincinnati.

MOUNTAIN DIVISION SUPREMACY

As the 2021 season rounds the first corner, now a quarter of the way of through, El Paso Locomotive, Rio Grande Valley FC, and New Mexico United have made themselves forerunners early in the Mountain Division. While RGVFC currently holds the top spot, Wednesday’s night contest between RGV and Locomotive can shake up the table and have an impact on the top seed late in the season. Locomotive is currently only 2 points below RGV, so a win on Wednesday would move Locomotive to the top seed with games still in hand to create distance.

DIVISION OF DEATH

If Group F was the Group of death in the UEFA EURO, the Mountain Division in USL Championship is setting itself up to be the same. In Group F, four teams vied for two guaranteed spots into the Round of 16. In the Mountain Division, seven teams are duking it out for four playoff spots. Group F, the top three nations were only separated by a single point, with Hungary missing out barely by last-minute goals and results in another game. Mountain Division, the top four teams are separated by a single win with the next two teams nipping close behind two points shy. If the Mountain Division continues the way it is, the final few weeks of the 2021 USL Championship season will come down to the wire with dramatic soccer à la Group F EURO.

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2019…

In the three years, El Paso Locomotive has played in the USL Championship, it has only visited Rio Grande Valley FC once. August 24, 2019, El Paso made the trip to H-E-B Park, only to fall narrowly behind an early second-half goal, 1-0. For the first time since that night, Locomotive makes the trip to Edinburg, Texas to revisit the Toros on their home turf. Both teams are vastly different from 2019 however, with Locomotive having now nearly three years of a culture built under it and Rio Grande Valley finding its form under returning Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera.

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