Sebastián Velasquez scoring an 83rd minute game-winning penalty? A perfectly logical conclusion for Locomotive FC.

Everything before that?


El Paso doesn’t score many early goals, yet there was Josué Aarón Gómez putting Locomotive FC in front on the road just 19 minutes in.

Fresno’s Alex Cooper whipping in a beautiful cross for an assist? Well, that would be a first.

It was.

Cooper found Christian Cheney who beat El Paso captain Chiro N’Toko in the air –– another oddity –– heading the ball far post to level the match three minutes into the second half.

Even more astounding was watching sure-footed Locomotive keeper Logan Ketterer serve a slice of pizza to Cooper with a missed pass that turned into the go-ahead goal just six minutes later.

The tying goal might have been his first assist, but Cooper scored five times in the regular season and wasn’t about to miss his sixth in a playoff.

But the craziest thing about this crazy Western Conference quarterfinal? Watching James Kiffe tie the match again in the 77th minute.

Kiffe doesn’t score goals, he sets them up. He doesn’t take on defenders and dangle in the middle of the pitch, he darts in decisively from the left wing or crosses the ball. And he certainly doesn’t rip bangers from outside the box.

But he did Saturday. All of it.

Nineteen yards out, dribbling into the middle to lose his marker, using his off foot to crack a shot that came in so fast Fresno goalkeeper C.J. Cochran was still rooted to his spot.

It was Kiffe’s first goal of the season and, with the game growing colder for the visitors in the verdant San Joaquín Valley, it was a blast of dry desert air that gave them new life.

El Paso has been making a habit of scoring late but, being built for patience and possession, usually has issues taking the game to teams when it falls behind.

Locomotive FC doesn’t swashbuckle, it buckles up. Good for poker, bad for craps.

But with the hard part of getting back on level terms now done, El Paso was exactly where head coach Mark Lowry might have wanted his team to be if the score had been nil-nil –– content to dance on a tightrope and dare its hosts to step out, weaving its way around the pitch, watching Velasquez mesmerize with movement, until…

A Velasquez pass to Gómez that sent him into the Fresno box and behind Foxes defender Sam Strong, who couldn’t resist challenging.

Strong clattered into Gómez and referee Lukasz Szpala pointed straight to the spot.

Velasquez sent Cochran the wrong way and powered the shot into the left side netting to put Locomotive ahead in the 83rd.

And El Paso put the game to bed, earning the team’s first home playoff match against Sacramento Republic FC next Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Watering the grass growing in the infield of Southwest University Park for November playoff soccer?


More From 600 ESPN El Paso