For Mechack Jérôme, the altered and abbreviated 2020 season of the USL Championship is the completion of a career cycle. The Haitian center defender was not able to show soccer fans here on the border his skills that made him a regular call up to the Haitian National Soccer Team due to an injury he suffered in the early part of summer of 2019 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

That injury was a season ending one. Still, it was understood that the Locomotive defensive line would be in good hands for the 2020 season with Jérôme being one of its vital components. The lone match that El Paso played prior to COVID-19 Pandemic against Orange County would not give us much of an indication as to how much he was fully recovered…then came the stop in play due to COVID.

Ryan Ortegon/El Paso Locomotive FC.

The return to play midsummer 2020 would not be kind to the 30-year old center defender. He made defensive mistakes, had lapses in judgment and miscommunication that directly led to goals against the Locos.

However, over the course of the season, in a very quite manner Jérôme has improved and become a key element in the 13 match unbeaten streak that the Locomotive currently find themselves in heading into their second straight Western Conference final.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Locotmotive FC.

Mechack is an undeniable starter for El Paso on the defensive line. In addition, his security and confidence in managing ball possession in a risky part of the field of play is something that can be felt by those watching any Locos match when the ball is at his feet.

Prior to departing for the Valley of the Sun, Locos head coach Mark Lowry elaborated on Jérôme's current form and how he got there over the course of 16 regular season matches, making him the most improved player of the year…sort of.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Lowry commented, "The Mechack right now is the Mechack that we know. I wouldn’t say this is an improvement over 2 or 3 years. This (improvement) is from the start of the season to now, because of the injury last year. Mechack was 15 pounds overweight when we came back from the suspension (of play due to COVID). He started those first couple of games too heavy. That played a massive part in him being a half of second too late to certain things. He was heavy and it was a byproduct of last season, not playing due to injury and him not being able to move 6, 7, 8 months. Then he didn’t do a full preseason, he joined probably the last 2 or 3 weeks of the preseason because he still wasn’t ready and then we stopped after the first game of the season. So he probably had 3 weeks of football in him before the suspension."

Lowry continued, "He’s always been big, strong and solid but he was too heavy and I think that’s what affected him in the first couple of games. But since he’s been back playing, we put him on a good plan and he has lost 10, 15 pounds and now we are seeing the Mechack that we all know and that probably hasn’t been mentioned enough. From the first game back against RGV until now he’s been phenomenal."

The Western Conference final between Phoenix Rising and El Paso Locomotive FC will be televised locally on the CW and nationally on the ESPN+. The match will take place at Casino Arizona Field on the outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona and is scheduled to kickoff at 830pm MST.