They did it again. El Paso Locomotive FC defeated their bitter rival New Mexico United in the Western Conference semifinals 5-3 in a penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 tie on Saturday night at Southwest University Park. The victory sends the Locos to their 2nd straight conference finals in as many years of existence.

The fifth match between these two sides in this 2020 season did not disappoint. It was intense, emotional and competitive for the entire 120 minutes.

It was a match that got off to a quick start for El Paso, they did not waste any time in creating opportunities on goal as it came in the first couple of minutes of the match. The Locos would quickly impose the match that they wanted to execute as they demonstrated early dominance with most of the match being played in the El Paso’s offensive third. New Mexico would not be able to have their first real threat on goal until the 17th minute of the match.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

The score line would open in the 30th minute when Dylan Mares would create some space for himself from just inside the goalbox on a passed he received. Mares would take a right footed strike that would curl inside the upper right corner of the goal.

Simply put, one of the best goals of the entire season for the Locos.

The Locomotive would not let down their intensity after the opening goal. This is something that tends to happen after scoring a goal, instead the Locos kept applying offensive pressure to New Mexico for the remainder of the half.

The second half would be more of seesaw match that saw both teams take control of the match for minutes at a time, but all indications pointed towards a Locos victory by the minimal difference (1-0). El Paso head coach Mark Lowry would even be substitute his three most offensively oriented players Aaron Gomez, Leandro Carrijo and Dylan Mares for defensive players to close the match.

However, with less than two minutes to go in stoppage time Chris Wehan would pass the ball off to Romeo Parkes who would take a desperation shot from well outside the Locos goalbox. The shot would slip past the Locos defensive players and past goalkeeper Logan Ketterer to find the back of the net in the lower left corner of the goal.

The match would go into extra time.

With the momentum and motivation off of what was essentially a buzzer beater, the United got off to quick start in the first 15 minutes of extra time. El Paso would eventually settle in and end the first extra time looking like if they were closer to score than New Mexico.

The second extra time would see more control and chances on goal by the team from the 915 than the visiting side, however the goal would not come for the Locomotive and the match would be determined by a penalty kick shootout.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Eder Borelli, Nick Ross, Richie Ryan and Saeed Robinson would score for the Locos in the shootout as the United would keep pace. However, when it was time for Romeo Parkes to take his PK Ketterer would rise to the occasion and block the penalty kick. It would then be up to Distel Zola to send his team to the conference final…how would convert.

After the match head coach for El Paso Mark Lowry gave his thoughts on the match, "It was an up and down game, a typical semifinal I guess. It was about attrition, believing in each other and I felt good going into extra time. The guys played a phenomenal 30 minutes of extra time and on the back of their goal which could have deflated us, but the guys stuck to it. They showed great heart, great grit more than I did to be honest. They were superb tonight and once we went to penalties I had faith in us again. I had faith in the guys stepping up and executing."

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

As for Zola scoring the match winner Lowry said, "Distel at the end, he’s been great in training all week with the pens, we’ve been practicing and he’s scored everyone so I knew he was going to score. The composure to step up and do what he did takes huge heart and huevos."

If you missed any the action from Saturday night, the USL put together a terrific highlight video below to relive every big moment in the match.

The Locomotive will now face the Phoenix Rising next Saturday in the outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona for the Western Conference Championship. The match will be televised nationally on ESPN+.

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