It all ends here. Well, the regular season anyway. We’ve had a playoff berth for a while, so we already know that we will be seeing you all at Southwest University Park on Friday, November 5th. For others though, they aren’t so lucky. Like our opponents this Saturday! They’re still fighting for their season, and I wish them all the luck! But also, please refer back to the first sentence. Anyway, let’s get to breaking the 2021 USL Championship Regular Season Finale down!
MATCH DETAILS: USL Championship Regular Season Game #32; at Rio Grande Valley FC; Kickoff 6:30 p.m. MT
VENUE/WEATHER: H-E-B Park; Edinburg, Texas; Forecasted 87F with clear skies
WATCH PARTY: Cabo Joe’s (7942 Gateway Blvd E)
RECORDS/STANDINGS: Locomotive: 18-3-10 (64 points, MTN-1); RGV: 11-11-8 (45 points, MTN-3)
PREVIOUS MEETING: Locos and RGV met for the third round in the 2021 head-to-head series at Southwest University Park in August, and El Paso Locomotive emphatically took the 3-1 win. Despite Elvis Amoh giving RGV a first-half lead in the 38th minute, Locomotive ran away in the second half. Lucho Solignac equalized the scoring in the 66th minute with his back-heel volley that landed at Number 4 on SportsCenter Top 10. It ended up being an easy win for Locomotive after Sebastian Velasquez took the Locomotive lead in the 89th minute and Dylan Mares guaranteed the three points at home with his 96th-minute goal.
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros could see their 2021 USL Championship season come to an end on Saturday. As of right now, RGV is two below the playoff line. RGV absolutely needs a win against El Paso to keep their playoff dreams alive, but they would also need New Mexico United to drop against Real Monarchs and they would need Austin Bold FC to fall to Charlotte Independence on the same day. Since Rio Grande Valley can’t control what happens in the other two games, they will be heavily focused to get the job done in the one space they can control. There is nothing more dangerous than a bull pushed into a corner. The Toros will be leaving everything out on the pitch, but the question remains if it will be enough to stop a red-hot El Paso Locomotive FC side.
El Paso Locomotive roaring on all cylinders at exactly the right time. In the last five games, El Paso Locomotive is 4-1-0, outscoring their opponents 13-8, with five of those eight goals coming from the unfortunate LA Galaxy II loss. More importantly though, seven of those 13 goals came unanswered in the last two games where Locomotive completely dominated 3-0 and 4-0 wins against Austin Bold FC and OKC Energy FC respectively. With only one game left in the regular season before the Locos make their third consecutive push towards a USL Championship title win, the Sun City club needs to have as much momentum as possible, and now is the time to get it.
El Paso Locomotive and Rio Grande Valley FC have found each other on the pitch six times over the course of the last three seasons, with this upcoming match being the seventh in the all-time series. Two of those matches have taken place at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, where El Paso Locomotive has yet to gain a win. As if the fight wasn’t already going to be challenging with El Paso taking on an RGV side that has everything to lose with this match, the psychological battle of going to a field where you have to get a win could be overcoming. All the more reason why the two massive wins this last week were crucial. El Paso Locomotive has an air of confidence and momentum to walk into H-E-B Park and come away with a win for the first time in club history.
Locomotive is up and running nearly at a full 100% after a grueling month that saw Locomotive play nine games within 31 days. The Sun City team picked up a lot of injuries with the likes of Yuma, Richie Ryan, Andrew Fox, Sebastian Velasquez, Mechack Jerome, and more finding their names on the Injury Report throughout the month. On Sunday night, we saw the triumphant return of Mechack Jerome to the Starting XI since picking up an injury in the October 6 match against San Antonio FC. Andrew Fox has also been seeing more consistent minutes on the pitch since returning from a small injury, making starts in the last three matches. Players with a little more aggressive injury, are beginning to look favorable and the coaching staff is hopeful they will be ready for the club’s third consecutive playoff run. Richie Ryan for example feels hopeful that he will be making an appearance against Rio Grande Valley FC this Saturday to get some minutes for the first time since September 22. Point is, El Paso Locomotive is almost back at full strength at just the right time for what is shaping up to be a historic postseason.