Road Warriors: Locomotive FC’s Unbeaten Streak Hits 9
You hear the phrase a lot in soccer: "making our home a fortress".
Locomotive FC is still working on making that true in El Paso, but it's the road that is showing just how well-built this team is.
From the opening whistle Saturday night, Locomotive FC did as it pleased in Tulsa, OK, winning it's third straight game, 2-0, over a nearly punchless Roughnecks FC and extending its league-best unbeaten streak to nine.
Locomotive now sits second in the USL Championship's Western Conference table, trailing Phoenix Rising FC on goal differential but with the same 26 points.
Jerome Kiesewetter is now atop the goal-scoring leaderboard with New Mexico United's Kevaughn Frater after notching his 10th goal of the season from a well-taken penalty, earned by midfield playmaker Sebastián Contreras, who also scored.
El Pasoan Omar Salgado did things to Tulsa left back Anthony Legendre. Bad things.
It was Salgado's skip past Legendre that created the opener in the 37th minute. A quick feint to get by the defender along the touchline at midfield and the 6-4 winger was gone in a puff of dead grass and infield dirt at OneOK Field, bombing in alone down the right flank, faking Roughnecks' team captain Cyprian Hedrick out of his way, popping a last-second cross past keeper Sean Lewis to Contreras for a tap-in goal.
Legendre was subbed at halftime.
With a recuperating Richie Ryan on the bench and Yuma still nursing a lower leg injury, it was up to another El Pasoan, Louis "Chapa" Herrera, to anchor the defensive midfield, which he did with aplomb.
Goalie Logan Ketterer only had to turn away one shot on the night to earn his seventh clean sheet but it might be a candidate for Save of the Week, punching away Janú Silva's amazing backward glancing header in the 77th minute, a save that seemed to be more reflex than knowing reaction.
Then there was Contreras. On a team that, when it's pressured, tries to make its opposition chase the ball out of trouble with quick one-touch passing, it is the Argentine who has the freedom to keep the ball and force the issue.
It's exactly how he earned the penalty in the 75th minute, dribbling past Tulsa's Luca Lobo and curling in from the left, drawing the attention of Lobo, then forward Rodrigo da Costa, then defender Mallan Roberts, leading a convoy into the area where da Costa left a leg dangling. Trying to get a piece of the ball, da Costa got a piece of Contreras instead.
Referee Jon Freemon pointed straight to the spot and Kiesewetter converted, then celebrated by hoisting Contreras' foot onto his knee and pretending to shine his shoe.
Perhaps the only thing that didn't go El Paso's way was the unfortunate misplacement of two letters on the back of Salgado's jersey, but even that was obscured by Locomotive FC's surprise reveal of its white third kit.
Maybe it was a surprise for the equipment supplier as well.
But the most impressive thing about Locomotive FC's Saturday night was that it's the sixth result in the six road matches El Paso has played this season. And that has the architect of Locomotive's roaming road fortress, Mark Lowry, beaming.
As stated earlier, El Paso is still working on that home fortress business. The last time Locomotive FC lost was at home to Rising FC.
That was April 13.