Following the thrilling nationally televised 1-1 draw against Detroit City FC last Saturday, El Paso Locomotive FC has officially reached the halfway mark of its 2022 USL Championship regular season campaign.
While the start of the season did not start quite the way the Locomotive faithful would have hoped, the Hutchinson Era has proved to be successful and exciting after 17 games. Despite injuries, international call-ups, and general availability of a small squad, Locomotive has come up big to be undefeated in its last six league matches. After 1,530 minutes, Locomotive has laid claim to 25 points and sits sixth in the Western Conference.
As the league begins to reach the halfway point of the USL Championship regular season, we begin looking towards the coveted USL Championship title. Which team will be lifting the trophy high above their heads in November? Which team will earn the right to represent their conference on the grandest stage in the USL Championship? Who will play who on that road to Championship glory? We still have a long way to go before we know for sure, but just as we did last season, we ask, what if the season ended today?
ONE OF THE MOST AGGRESSIVE TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE
If the season ended today, El Paso Locomotive FC would end as one of the most offensively successful teams in the USL Championship. Currently, Locomotive sits atop of the league alongside Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and San Diego Loyal SC with 31 goals. In the first half of the 2022 USL Championship season, Locomotive has had 11 unique goal scorers from across the field. The high-pressure style of play that has identified Locomotive soccer under Head Coach John Hutchinson has provided some exciting moments such as the 5-0 win over Monterey Bay F.C. – the largest winning margin in Locomotive history.
While the goals have slowed down in recent weeks, El Paso has shown that a full-strength Locomotive is something opposing defensive lines should fear.
SIXTH IN THE WEST
It’s a familiar sight. At the end of the inaugural 2019 season, El Paso Locomotive FC finished sixth in the Western Conference, edging out Sacramento Republic SC to avoid the Play-In Round of the USL Championship Playoffs. From there, Locomotive’s Cinderella dream continued with a victory over Fresno FC in California and a thrilling and memorable 3-0 win over Sacramento in El Paso.
If the seasoned ended today, Locomotive would see itself in a similar position. As mentioned earlier, Locomotive has amassed 25 points through the first half of the season with a record of 7-6-4. Los Locos have rocketed from the Western Conference cellar to put itself into playoff contention. With the performances of those around Locomotive, if the 2022 USL Championship season ended today, Locomotive would once again finish in sixth in the West. As 2019 proved, that is not a bad position to be.
Finishing sixth in the West would mean Locomotive would have to travel away from Southwest University Park to open its USL Championship title run. As top of the table would earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, Locomotive would take on the club who ends in third place. If the season ended now, this would mean El Paso Locomotive would travel to California to take on San Diego Loyal SC. It would be the second time in history the Locos would travel to San Diego, with the first coming earlier this year. While that match ended in a 2-3 loss for the Locos, Locomotive is a different team now than it was at the start of the season.
It would be difficult to say who Locomotive would face going into the next round, as it would be dependent on results across the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The league will reseed the remaining teams to ensure the first overall seed in each conference plays against the lowest-seeded remaining opponent. The odds are likely that Locomotive would be away again for the Semifinal should it advance deeper into the playoffs.
Don’t let the position dampen your hopes. Remember, in 2019, Locomotive finished sixth and made a storybook run into the Western Conference Final, nearly reaching the USL Championship Final on 10-men after 120-minutes. It goes to show anything is possible and all you need is a punched ticket to the playoff race.
Of course, these are all hypothetical scenarios. Locomotive still has 17 games to play in the 2022 USL Championship regular season, nine of which will be played at the fortress that is Southwest University Park. Tickets for every Locomotive home match is available now at eplocomotivefc.com/tickets or by calling 915-235-GOAL so don’t miss a moment of this so far exciting 2022 season.