El Paso Locomotive FC came back from an early deficit to defeat Las Vegas Lights in downtown El Paso on Wednesday night by the score 2-1. The ninth win of the season for Locomotive serves to move them into a tie for first place in the western conference of the USL Championship (tied with Sacramento Republic), extending their current unbeaten streak to 11 matches.

Luis ‘Lucho’ Solignac and Erik McCue scored the goals for El Paso in this midweek match, the second of three matches that El Paso will have in the span of the week. This is the second three match week for the Locos and thus far have obtained four of the six points that have been disputed with one more match coming up on Saturday.

The Locos continue to establish themselves as one of the best teams in all of the USL heading into the middle of the season. It is a team that’s established its personality and characteristics, a team that fights to the end and has the belief that it can get result regardless of the obstacles that become present over the span of 90 minutes.

Here’s what happened

Locomotive for the second match in a row conceded a goal in the opening five minutes of the match when Eric Oteng attacked down the left flank in the third, crossed the ball and found fellow forward Preston Etaka in the far post who then proceeded to head the ball into the back of the net, giving the Lights an early 1-0 lead.

El Paso got the equalizer in the 24th minute when Solignac scored on a penalty kick that was awarded when Miles Lyons was tackled in the box attacking from the right flank. The Locos were awarded another penalty kick four minutes later on a clear handball by Light’s defender Marcelo Lage. Solignac tried to convert once again but had his kick blocked by goalkeeper Alan Diaz.

El Paso took the lead in the 33rd minute, this time it would be McCue who scored on a header via a corner kick. Las Vegas scored what would be the equalizer in the 40th minute but the goal was not made valid by center referee Elijio Arreguin as McCue cleared it from the goal a split second after the entire ball crossed the goal line.

The second half was complicated for the home team. Las Vegas improved and poured on the pressure as the second half progressed. It wasn’t a total surprise as natural fatigue that comes from playing two matches in the span of four days became evident.

The substitutions made by head coach/technical director Brian Clarhaut were made to address the fatigue and they worked as El Paso was able to hold on to get the win.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre
Ivan Pierre Aguirre

What was said

After the match Clarhaut spoke with the media, addressing first the knack his team has developed for overcoming deficits, “I don’t love to go down early, I can say that. I think it’s a sense of confidence and calmness that they are going to win the game. You can see it out there, no panic, (just) a sense of confidence and expectation”

Clarhaut was forthright on how the quick turnaround from Saturday’s match at San Antonio affected his team, “I think you could see in some of our guys the hangover from San Antonio, even at the end of the first half a bit and you could see at the end of the second half some high fatigue level.”

As for what needs to be done to complete this three match week successfully, Clarhaut said, “The next 72 hours is just about getting recovery, trying to get us as fresh as possible. We tried to do that with some of the substitutions to be honest. We tried to save some guys legs as best we could and try to rotate a few guys.”

What’s next

The three match week for El Paso will conclude with another home match on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It will be the first time that the Rowdies visit the Borderland. These two clubs have only met once before. The Locos lost 3-1 in the final match of the 2022 regular season in the state of Florida.

Tampa Bay is currently in third place in the eastern conference with 24 points as a result of seven wins, three draws and four loses. The Rowdies come into this match with the Locos fresh off of a 1-1 draw with Sacramento last Saturday, because of that the visiting team will have the advantage of being well rested.

Saturday’s match will be televised nationally via steaming on ESPN+. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm MST.

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