Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Locomotive FC
The book has shut on the 2021 USL Championship Regular Season and 16 teams are penning new chapters for the playoff race to the trophy. For El Paso Locomotive, they enter the post-season as one of those final 16 teams for the third straight season since joining the league in 2019.
As Head Coach Mark Lowry and El Paso Locomotive turn their attention towards yet another historic storybook run towards the USL Championship Title, now is as good a time as any to look back at the club-best run through the regular season.
Through the 2021 season, El Paso Locomotive was one of two teams that stayed unbeaten at their home venue. After 16 games played at Southwest University Park, the Locos finished with a record of 13-0-3 (42 points) while Phoenix Rising FC’s home record at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex follows shortly behind at 11-0-5 (38 points). The two Western Conference clubs join a shortlist of teams in the USL Championship’s history to have a loss-less record at home in the regular season. Orlando City (2012, 2014), Richmond Kickers (2013), Rochester Rhinos (2015), Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (2019), and Indy Eleven (2019) accomplished the feat beforehand with at least 10 games played at home in the season. In 2020, Sacramento Republic and San Antonio FC managed to stay unbeaten at their home stadiums, but both played less than 10 games at nine and eight respectively.
The 2021 Locomotive home record lends itself to what is now an all-time club-best record in the regular season. Beating the record set in 2019 (13-10-11, 50 points), Los Locos amassed 64 points with a record of 18-4-10. With only four losses in the season, El Paso Locomotive boasts the cleanest record across the entire league for 2021, finishing third overall behind only the 2020 Conference Champions, Phoenix Rising FC (67 points), and Tampa Bay Rowdies (71 points).
Locomotive has only improved with each year all across the pitch making this club-best record a possibility.
Compared to the inaugural 2019 season, El Paso Locomotive boasted a stingier and more ironclad defense while putting forward a more clinical and aggressive offense. All in all, Locomotive put forth a more complete showing in 2021 than it did just two years ago. In 2019, Locomotive scored 42 goals across 13 goal scorers while allowing 36 for a +6-goal differential. That was enough to earn Locomotive a berth into the playoffs for their inaugural year, but El Paso knew it could be better.
By 2021, Locomotive had improved to scoring 56 goals in two fewer games (14 more than 2019) across 14 scorers. Meanwhile, Locomotive only allowed 34 goals this season, two less than 2019, giving the Sun City club a +22-goal differential to top the Mountain Division and decisively earning a playoff berth.
Anyone paying attention through the 2020 shortened season saw this improvement well underway. The 2019 42 goals scored and 36 allowed were earned in a full 34-game season. El Paso Locomotive played 16-games in 2020, just shy of half the number of 2019. Even still, Locomotive scored 24 goals while allowing only 14. In less than half the games, the Boys in Blue had already scored more than half the number of goals scored in 2019. No matter the circumstances, El Paso Locomotive has continually improved throughout the years, leading to what really was a year to remember in 2021.
Photo by Paul Sandoval/El Paso Locomotive FC
So here we are. The end of the 2021 USL Championship Regular Season. It started off slow. Locomotive only played two or three games while everyone else had played five or six. Rio Grande Valley FC stood at the top of the Mountain Division, while El Paso sat below the playoff line in fifth. Despite the slow start, Locomotive had the advantage of games in hand, knowing exactly what it needed to do to come out on top. Every man from 1 to 22 on Coach Lowry’s squad did just that to get the job done. By the end of the regular season, El Paso Locomotive had decisively claimed the top seed in the Mountain Division without any threat to top stop them.
We’ve seen a lot through the season. The triumphant return of Sebastian Velasquez was a welcome comeback adding a creative and clinical depth to the attacking midfield. Diego Luna made his professional debut, taking the league by storm as one of the brightest up-and-comers. Lucho Solignac fitted perfectly into Mark Lowry’s system, creatively finishing goals that land on ESPN SportsCenter Top 10. Macca King and Eder Borelli stood out on the wings, playing end-to-end football that both stopped opposition offense while creating goals for the attack. Ultimately, we saw a club that played as a team and not as individuals on the pitch.
The team may have faltered once or twice throughout the season, but the resiliency of the club saw the team bounce back on more than one occasion. El Paso Locomotive FC truly showcased a never-say-die attitude. This is a club that wants to win and will do everything they can to come out on the other side of the 90-minute whistle as a winner. 2021 showed that this is a team that has what it takes to take everything it does to the next step. Which leaves us to looking ahead at the 2021 Playoffs
Photo by Kensey Arlt/El Paso Locomotive FC
El Paso Locomotive has made it a successful trend of taking everything to the next level. When it comes to the playoffs, El Paso took their run to the Western Conference finals, falling to a heartbreaking last-second goal in added extra time. In 2020, they repeated the performance, this time taking the match past added extra time and into a penalty shootout, but again falling just short. To follow this successful trend, Locomotive is primed to win the Western Conference title and represent the West in the USL Championship Final.
Don’t miss the first step in El Paso Locomotive’s quest to the USL Championship Final this Friday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. MT. Locomotive is set to take on El Paso native Memo Diaz and Oakland Roots SC. The first meeting between these two clubs is set to be a historic one at Southwest University Park. Tickets are going quickly so lock in your seat now at eplocomotivefc.com/tickets, phone at 915-235-GOAL, or through the Official El Paso Locomotive FC App.