EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – He’s back.
El Paso Locomotive FC has signed midfielder Sebastian Velasquez, who played an integral role in the club’s first trip to the USL Championship Western Conference Finals in 2019, to a multi-year contract. The deal is pending league and federation approval, the club announced Monday.
“We are very happy to welcome back Sebastian [Velasquez] into our group,” said Locomotive FC head coach Mark Lowry. “There is no doubt Sebastian has great quality, we have seen it before, and we hope to see it again. The current group that we have in 2021 is a different team from what we had back in 2019. We are three years into building a culture on and off the field and that is the main reason why we are on this current unbeaten streak dating back 10 months. This is who we are as a team and an organization. We are always looking for ways to improve and we will never stand still. We move forward every day, and Sebastian is coming in at a good moment, with lots of football left in the season. He can make an impact and help us achieve our very lofty objectives.”
Velasquez, 30, returns to El Paso after spending the 2020 season with Miami FC and played overseas in Israel in 2021. In 2019, his first stint with Locomotive FC, the Colombian midfielder made 16 appearances (including playoffs), all of which were starts. In that span, Velasquez recorded five goals and one assist en route to the Western Conference Finals in the club’s inaugural season.
“I was only here for six months, but I became very close to the community. I have my most memorable moments of my life happen here in El Paso,” said Velasquez. “This is the best [club] in the USL and I wanted to be a part of this incredible team. These guys haven’t lost a game, so, I wanted to be a part of that and thankfully it has worked out.”
During the 2019 season, Velasquez ingrained himself in the El Paso community. In the days following the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Wal Mart, Velasquez and his teammates helped the community start to heal. In the process, he befriended members of EP Fusion, the girls soccer team who was in front of the Wal Mart when the event started unfolding on that tragic day.
“Last week I was in Las Vegas and one of the victims — I don’t like to rehash it too much — who was shot wrote me and said, ‘Wow, I was just in Las Vegas last week. I wish I could have seen you and I want you to see my girls,’ She was a part of that El Paso Fusion team. She was like, ‘I wish you could see my girls, they’ve grown so much. They’ve done so many good things on the soccer field.’ All I said was, ‘I can’t wait to see you.’ She said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘You wait and see.’ When you have that love and passion, not only with the soccer team, but the community as well, that means I can raise my kids here and have my family here.”
Velasquez signed with Miami FC following his stint with El Paso and scored four goals in 10 appearances during the shortened 2020 season. He then signed on to play in the Israeli Premier League earlier this season where he made 12 appearances with two goals for Bnei Sakhnin. It was when conflict began to breakout in parts of Israel where Velasquez was located, that he made the decision to come back home to the United States, more specifically, his home in El Paso.
“I gained a lot of experience playing in some really nice stadiums in a really good league, but I couldn’t bring my family. I was without my daughter and without my lady for nine months,” said Velasquez. “Then the whole war thing started happening and that’s the first time I’ve seen anything that has to do with war, especially that close. I spoke with my family and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ She said, ‘Let’s go home.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go home as well.’ As soon as that happened, I got back to the States and I called coach Mark Lowry and we made it happen.”
Velasquez will add to El Paso’s attacking combo with the likes of Diego Luna, Dylan Mares, Luis Solignac, Aaron Gomez, Leandro Carrrijo, and Aidan Apodaca. Lowry believes the former 36th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft will give his club more options with a brutal stretch of the schedule coming up, where Locomotive FC will play multiple matches each week.
“We need two creative players on the field at all times,” said Lowry. “When I look at the schedule over the rest of the season, we have a lot of Wednesday-Saturday games. It would be very difficult to have Dylan [Mares] and Diego [Luna] on the field every game. Adding another player of similar quality and a similar threat — in terms of the attacking ability, the creative abilities, and the dribbling abilities that Velasquez has — it allows us to have two of them, maybe even three of them, on the field at once.”
Velasquez will not be available when El Paso travels to Rio Grande Valley FC on Wednesday for a matchup against the first place Toros, but should be on the roster when Locomotive FC hosts New Mexico United on Saturday.
Transaction: El Paso Locomotive signs Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez to multi-year contract.
Name: Sebastian Velasquez
Pronunciation: Say-bash-tun Vuh-Lass-kehz
DOB: February 11, 1991 (30)
Hometown: Medellin, Columbia
Last Club: Bnei Sakhnin FC (Israeli Premier League)