EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Through a pandemic, and season-ending injuries to three starters, nothing has been normal about 2020 for El Paso Locomotive FC.
However, there has been one constant throughout a 13-match unbeaten streak for Locomotive: the stellar play of Dylan Mares in the midfield.
“It’s been an interesting year for many different reasons, but I think we’ve done our best to adapt,” Mares said.
Mares’ versatility in the attacking third makes him dynamic for El Paso as they get ready to play Phoenix Rising FC in the USL Championship’s Western Conference Final. Locomotive FC is back in the league’s Final 4 for the second year in a row.
“Dylan’s the one player we have that has the ability to create a goal by himself,” head coach Mark Lowry said.
The native of Indiana ranks second in the entire USL Championship in chances created this year -his 44 created chances trails only Phoenix Rising FC’s Solomon Asante’s 48.
Mares has also netted five goals, which is tied with Josue Aaron Gomez for most on the squad, and his 5 assists are tops on the team. He credits the style of play Lowry has developed for his play this season.
“The way that we play puts me in a position where I can create something out of it and that has benefitted me personally because it allows me to help the team,” Mares said.
He is also a marksman on corner kicks and set pieces, making El Paso even more dangerous from all over the field, even when the ball isn’t in play.
“His delivery gives us a chance to score whether it’s a free kick or a corner,” Lowry said. “That’s a nice thing to have particularly in the playoffs.”
As El Paso’s roster has been thinned out by injuries over the last month, Mares has been even more crucial to Los Locos’ current 13-match unbeaten streak that it has carried into Saturday’s conference final against Phoenix. With Mares leading the way, El Paso likes its chances to beat Rising FC and advance to the USL Championship final, where they would play the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between Louisville City FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
“I think we all want to play Phoenix, to be honest,” Mares said. “I think we match up with them well. There’s not much you need to motivate you because it’s a final.”
With Mares in the fold, El Paso could see even more success for years to come.
“He’s here for awhile, and we’re glad he’s here for awhile because in my opinion, he’s one of the top attacking players in the league,” said Lowry.
Mares and the rest of the Locomotive FC lads play at Phoenix Rising in the Western Conference Final on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. MT. The game can be seen on ESPN+.