EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – There isn’t a team in USL Championship playing as well over the last two months than El Paso Locomotive FC.
El Paso enters the playoffs riding an 11-game unbeaten streak dating back to an Aug. 1 loss to Phoenix Rising FC. Locomotive defeated Real Monarchs SLC 4-0 in the regular season finale.
Now, the Group C champions will welcome Group D runner-up Tulsa FC to Southwest University Park on Saturday night in the USL Championship Western Conference Quarterfinals, looking to continue their incredible run of form. However, it won’t be easy.
El Paso head coach Mark Lowry confirmed on Wednesday that star forward Omar Salgado is out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL against New Mexico United on Sept. 26. Salgado joins defender Chiro N’Toko among the ranks of the walking wounded, after N’Toko also tore his ACL earlier in the season.
“It’s not ideal, but we have to move on without them,” Lowry said.
Lowry also said that Los Locos will likely be without defender Andrew Fox for the rest of the year, as he suffered a knee injury Sept. 19 vs. Real Monarchs.
With three starters missing, El Paso is still confident in its abilities to continue rolling in the postseason. Similar to 2019, when Locomotive FC was playing well entering the playoffs and rode that momentum into the Western Conference Finals, El Paso is playing its best soccer at the right time.
“Going into last year’s playoffs we lost that game at LA Galaxy II and I think that lit a fire under us that we had to step it up because it’s playoffs,” goalkeeper Logan Ketterer said. “I think we hit that a week earlier where we were disappointed to not come out of Colorado Springs (last Wednesday) with a win and clinch first place, so I think that lit a bit of a fire.”
El Paso will face a solid Tulsa FC team in the quarterfinals that has a seven-match unbeaten streak entering the postseason. Lowry thinks a fast start could push Los Locos to a big win.
“We have to score early. When you score early like we did at Monarchs, then we’ll go get 2 or 3,” Lowry said. “That’s been the goal for us all season is to try to get on the board earlier in games.
By virtue of winning Group C, El Paso assured itself of a home playoff game in the quarterfinals. Locomotive FC officials announced on Wednesday that the match is sold out, meaning around 1,600 fans will be on hand for El Paso’s playoff opener.
Locomotive FC and Tulsa FC will kickoff in the Western Conference Quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Southwest University Park.