EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – El Paso Locomotive FC will play the biggest game in its short existence on Saturday in the USL Championship Western Conference Semifinals against Sacramento Republic at Southwest University Park.
They got there, thanks to midfielder Sebastian Velasquez, who is calm, cool and collected on the pitch and from the spot, thanks to years of experience, both good and bad.
Velasquez buried a penalty kick in the 83rd minute last Saturday at Fresno FC to give Locomotive a 3-2 win in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. It was easily the biggest moment in the franchise’s short history and for Velasquez, the latest in a long line of important penalties.
“I have a love-hate relationship with penalty kicks,” Velasquez said with a smile.
It’s understandable; look no further than the 2013 MLS Cup. With a chance to give Real Salt Lake the championship, Velasquez’s kick was blocked. Kansas City went on to beat RSL. The miss sent the Colombian midfielder into a deep depression.
“It was life-changing because of what I went through after. I went through a very rough patch, a turning point in my life,” Velasquez said.
Six years later, Velasquez is a changed man and one of the engines for Locomotive, a fan favorite who doesn’t shy away from the spot.
“He’s confident so you just go with it. He’s showing he’s got the courage to do it,” Locomotive FC manager Mark Lowry said.
Since joining El Paso in July, Velasquez has netted three important PKs. His teammates have the ultimate trust in him.
“I always ask guys, ‘who wants to take it,’ and they tell me, ‘no, you take it.’ So they put me in that moment,” Velasquez said.
What puts him at ease, is his newborn daughter, who calms his nerves in those high-pressure moments.
“I put that pressure on myself, I’m like, ‘if you really love your daughter, you’ll make this.’ It’s a weird little mind game that I play with myself and it puts me in some type of peace,” Velasquez said.
It works for him and it works for Locomotive FC, which is just two wins away from the USL Final. With Velasquez on their side, they know they’ve got a chance.
“To come back from the misses he’s had in the past and have the bravery to grab the ball and say I’m taking this one, it just shows what kind of player he is and that’s how he plays the game,” Lowry said.
Velasquez and the rest of Locomotive FC will host Sacramento on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Western Conference Semifinals at Southwest University Park.