Lowry’s Locomotive Earns Result Despite Injuries, Setbacks
Why would anyone would choose to go into the whack-a-mole world of coaching?
Sure, you have your Bill Belichicks, your Steve Kerrs, your Pep Guardiolas. But for every one of those fortunate enough to make it to the mountaintop you have 500 Mark Lowrys, beating their heads against the walls of the lower division reality in which they toil.
Thinner rosters. Smaller bankrolls. Costlier injuries.
It's like having your soup served in a colander. Plug enough holes, get lucky with a large cabbage leaf at the bottom and you could have more than a taste. But a clean lap? Impossible.
How's this to make you reach for the paper towels? Locomotive FC lost its top scorer (who hasn't found the net since early June), both starting centerbacks, a starting defensive midfielder and its starting goalkeeper to injury, hasn't won a match in more than a month and is the eighth lowest-scoring team in the USL Championship.
And yet, Saturday night El Paso moved up to fifth place in the Western Conference.
How in the name of caldo de res...?
After a few boos were heard at the final whistle Saturday, you might be hard-pressed to find a fan at Southwest University Park for both matches this week who would say with conviction that the 0-0 draw with Reál Monarchs was a huge improvement over Wednesday's 3-1 loss to San Antonio FC.
But it was.
Yes, Locomotive FC did not score, but neither did the fifth-most prolific team in the league. El Paso held the visitors to just one shot on net for the team's ninth clean sheet, helping backup goalkeeper Jermaine Fordah to an auspicious league debut as he replaced Logan Ketterer, out with a quad strain.
Locomotive FC's nine clean sheets are second only to league stalwarts Indy Eleven and Phoenix Rising FC, each with 10. El Paso completed 91 percent of its passes against Monarchs, bumping its league-best mark up to 86 percent for the season, and became the first USL side to crest the 10,000-pass plateau.
So, if not a clean lap for Lowry, then maybe the number for a good dry cleaner?
Give the Englishman credit, his insistence on possession and passing may lack the swashbuckling danger of in-your-face, counter-attacking soccer, but it has given the first-year franchise something it can lean on when the offense isn't working.
That said, the offense isn't working.
Locomotive FC teed itself up for a win Saturday, with 17 shots to Reál's four, five on target to Reál's one, 66-percent of the possession to Reál's 34. And still, nothing.
But help, health and an 11-day break before the second installment of the "Rio Granderby" at New Mexico United is coming.
Lowry wrung a full 90 minutes from his new playmaking midfielder and former Monarchs man, Sebastián Velasquez, though he probably would have liked to have subbed him off with a lead in the second half.
The MLS veteran showed out from the start, sliding in to win a ball from his old team in the first minute of the match, allowing Nick Ross to mop up and put Omar Salgado through on goal. Salgado beat Monarchs' goalkeeper Andrew Putna and had an empty net to shoot at, but hit the near post.
The rest of the evening followed suit.
Goose eggs aside, with just a week's-worth of practice and playing a full match in searing desert heat, Velasquez's quality was on display as most of El Paso's offensive opportunities came through him.
“He’s class, man," said Lowry. "He unlocks defenses, he has that different level and we have been lacking that. We saw tonight the quality that he is going to bring to the table.”
Regardless of fan kvetching and media stat-gazing about the lack of offense, Lowry is fine with the bird in his hand. To him, gazing jealously at other teams' goal-scoring, or even salivating at the prospect of Velasquez teaming up with a healthy Jerome Kiesewetter, misses the point – both the one about a bigger picture and the one in the standings.
“That was a phenomenal effort from the guys. You don’t see USL games like that," said Lowry. "We owned the possession.
"We value the process and when you play like that you can’t be disappointed."
Colander or not, who cares about the mess if the soup is good?