Can you paint a better picture for a matchup? One of the greatest defenses in the league vs one of the most clinical offenses in the league. It's the top two teams of the Mountain Division battling it out for lasting playoff implications as each team goes into the final third of the season. I don't have anything fun or quirky to say about this one, I'm just excited for what is sure to be an exciting game! So let's break down the storylines!
MATCH DETAILS: USL Championship Regular Season Game #22; at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC; Kickoff 7:00 p.m. MT
VENUE/WEATHER: Weidner Field; Colorado Springs, Colorado; 84F degrees and clear skies.
WATCH PARTY: Palomino Tavern (205 Cincinnati Ave)
RECORDS/STANDINGS: Locomotive: 13-2-6 (45 points, MTN-1); Switchbacks: 10-7-6 (36 points, MTN-2)
PREVIOUS MEETING: El Paso Locomotive and Colorado Springs Switchbacks have only met once in the 2021 USL Championship playing, splitting the points on a 1-1 draw in a mid-June match up. From a corner kick served in from Dylan Mares in the 11th minute, Macca King – alone and unmarked at the center of the penalty area – redirected the ball to provide El Paso with the early lead. Locomotive continued to test Switchbacks FC, but couldn’t find a second goal before a penalty in the second half for Switchbacks was converted by the USL’s leading golden boot, Hadji Barry. Both sides tested each other’s goalkeepers looking for the advantage goal, but it wasn’t meant to be as each side walked away from Southwest University Park with a point in hand.
At the top of the Mountain Division is none other than the Locos Blue from El Paso. And what a comfortable lead at the top it is. Only having lost two games this season, El Paso has used 21 games of the 32 game season to amass 45 points. Now, Locomotive sits nine points ahead of its closest competitor – its Wednesday night opponent, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. A clash of two of the best teams in the Mountain Division could lead to lasting playoff implications, as a three-point swing either way would be massive for either team. For Switchbacks, it would be to close the gap on the Division leaders while trying to stake a further claim to the second spot on the table for a guaranteed home game. For Locomotive, it would be to extend the gap even further with games in hand against its closest competition as the team looks to compete against the top teams around the league for the Championship top seed.
If you haven’t seen the incredible defensive work that El Paso Locomotive has been putting in through the 2021 season, well you just have been paying attention. Plain and simple. Locomotive is second across the league in clean sheets with nine (behind Tampa Bay Rowdies with 12) as well as second in the league for the least goals conceded with 16 (behind the Rowdies with 15). The defensive work from Locomotive has lent itself to the absolutely dominating performance throughout the season. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Switchbacks boasts one of the deadliest attacks in the league. The club leads the league with goals with 50 after 23 games. Hadji Barry’s golden boot leading 21 goals will be tested against an El Paso defensive team that has conceded only .8 goals per match.
After seven matches against Colorado Springs, El Paso Locomotive has yet to be taken down. Four wins, three draws, and zero losses give El Paso a historical advantage over their Mountain Division opponent. An even more interesting look, in the three matches where Locomotive has visited Weidner Field, Colorado Springs has not been able to find the back of the net. The first meeting in 2019 ended with Locomotive leaving with three points in hand, 2-0. In 2020 the two sides met in Colorado twice, both ending in scoreless draws. Of course, these three matches took place at the old Weidner Field. Colorado Springs has since built a brand new stadium where it currently holds a 7-3-3 record. The new stadium means a different field, replacing the natural grass of the old stadium with artificial turf, as well as increasing the fan capacity by about 3,000 fans. The change in venue creates an x-factor going into Wednesday night’s match, though history is still on the side of El Paso.
This is something that Head Coach Mark Lowry has repeated time and time again: There is depth in this squad from 1 - 22. No matter who goes on the field with the Locomotive jersey, it is the best lineup for the squad. Players on the bench are just as crucial to the game as the players on the Starting XI. Players who might not make the 18 one week, could easily start the next contest. There is a depth to this squad that has not existed in the first two years of play. We've seen it before. There have been stretches of this season that have put Locomotive on a series of fast-paced turnaround of games, prompting Lowry to showcase the quality of the players the extends to the very core of the club. As we edge closer and closer to the packed October schedule, expect Lowry to use this turnaround game to showcase more rotation with a different rotation than we saw against Sacramento Republic this past Saturday.
Tag(s): Club News