EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – El Paso Locomotive FC re-opened the USL Championship season with a bang on Saturday night, topping Rio Grande Valley FC 1-0 on a late goal from Dylan Mares amidst 105-degree temperatures.
The match was the first for El Paso in 126 days after the USL season was put on hold because of COVID-19. Playing without fans, Locomotive was sluggish out of the gate, but turned it on in the second half, putting together chance after chance, before finally netting the Mares winner in the 83rd minute.
The goal itself was a thing of beauty, the soccer equivalent of tic-tac-toe, as five different players put a touch on the ball in a condensed space before Mares volleyed it home to win the match.
El Paso was pleased with its performance in the second half, after a sluggish first 45 minutes.
“We played with so much energy in the second half that we didn’t notice it, the players provided the energy the fans normally give,” said Locomotive head coach Mark Lowry.
Before the match, all 22 players on the pitch and coaches and players on the sideline took a knee for a 15-second moment of silence, and then the entire national anthem, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Next up for El Paso is another home match on Wednesday, July 15, against regional rival New Mexico United. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Southwest University Park. Once again, no fans will be permitted.