EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – El Paso Locomotive FC is on a quest to win a championship this season; last week’s addition of midfielder Sebastian Velasquez is further proof of that.
From Velasquez’s perspective, the road to come back home to El Paso – as he would say – was certainly the road less traveled.
It was a moment nearly two years in the making: Velasquez’s return to the pitch at Southwest University Park on Saturday night.
“It was very emotional in a sense,” Velasquez said. “It gave me that extra boost to come out and do better than I wanted to do. I felt back at home.”
Last seen with Locomotive FC in 2019 leading a charge to the USL Championship Western Conference Finals, Velasquez has spanned the globe since. He played part of 2020 with Miami FC in the USL, before heading to the Middle East to play for Bnei Sakhnin FC, one of the top clubs in the Israeli Premier League.
“Israel is a beautiful country. I was living 3 minutes from the beach,” said Velasquez. “There’s a lot of history there, a lot of historical places you can go to.”
However, in May, as Velasquez was preparing to come home to the United States after the Israeli season ended, he was caught in the latest flare-up in a decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.
At the end of 11 days of fighting between the Israeli army and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, 255 people had been killed.
“For me, it was quite shocking, but for the people already living there, it was routine,” said Velasquez. “They had bomb shelters I had no idea about. There was a lot of great people that gave me directions on what I needed to do in those circumstances, so thankfully I was able to get out safe and sound.”
After spending a few days hunkered down in his apartment, Velasquez was finally able to get on a plane to England, which he described on social media as the scariest flight of his life.
He eventually made it back stateside, then to El Paso, where he’s expected to make a big impact for al Locomotive FC team that harbors hopes of a championship.
“Sebastian is fully fit and flying. In training he’s looked sharp, he came on for 30 minutes on Saturday and looked really good,” said Locomotive FC head coach Mark Lowry. “We’ll build his minutes up the right way, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s available and an exciting edition to the team.”
And for Velasquez, the feeling is mutual; he’s right where he needs to be.
“I’m really happy and really grateful to be back on the field,” he said.
Velasquez and his Locomotive FC teammates will be back on the pitch on Friday on the road at Real Monarchs SLC. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. in Utah.