The inaugural match between New Mexico United (4-1-6) and El Paso Locomotive FC (3-2-4) took place Sunday night in El Paso. The rivalry heated up well before kickoff and will continue until the rematch in Albuquerque.
El Paso’s defense took center stage for much of the match. Despite coming out in what was listed as a 4-2-3-1 formation, throughout the first half, they could be seen dropping back and holding in what could be described as a 4-4-2. The fluidity with which they changed their shape prevented New Mexico from finding any rhythm. The pressure and ability to close down by El Paso caused several errant passes and heavy touches. United like to move the ball from side to side, but unlike the match against San Antonio, they just weren’t able to break through.
El Paso also showed a much better offense that was apparent in previous matches. Omar Salgado and Jerome Kiesewetter were able to find a lot of space between the attacking third and the center half almost at will. This space ultimately led to the opening goal of the match. Twice within a matter of minutes, Kiesewetter made the same run on the left. With his movement on the ball, he was able to find a yard of space and put two left-footed shots on target. Cody Mizell brilliantly saved the first, but the second went over his outstretched arms to put the hosts up 1-0 in the 36th minute.
As the first half drew to a close United was able to pull level, against the run of play. In stoppage time United won a free kick 23 yards from goal. Chris Wehan put in a powerful shot on target, but it was punched away by Locomotive keeper Logan Ketterer. Despite the great save, the ball fell to the feet of Manny Padilla. Padilla would whip in another cross, and Sam Hamilton put head to leather, and the ball found the back of the net.
Coming out of the half United would try to increase the pressure on El Paso, but the success that has been seen in the past wasn’t there. El Paso continued to find space and went up again in the 65th, this time off of a header from Kiesewetter. Sebastián Contreras sent in a cross from the left wing and found the unmarked Kiesewetter who was able to easily head home. To this point, the match had been very physical and was looking to get out of hand.
In the 70th, the physicality of the match came to a head. After Locomotive midfielder Yuma threw Santi Moar to the ground the two went head to head and Yuma motioned as if to throw a headbutt at Moar. A scuffle ensued that ended up seeing Yuma and Moar both receiving red cards. The USL Disciplinary Committee will be reviewing the referee’s decision, and right now both players will miss the next league match.
The red cards being delivered gave United enough of a spark for one last push. In the 79th, Josh Suggs put a bouncing pass beyond the reach of El Paso defender Mechak Jerome which Ryan Williams was able to slot home for his second goal of the year and pulling United back level for the second time. The remaining time would play out with neither club finding the net again.
In a night that was marred by slips all over the field and two red cards, both clubs showed grit and determination. United took yet another point on the road and remain in second place in the Western Conference.
Player of the Match
Josh Suggs – in the tough conditions Josh did everything he could to help the club pull back points. From making long runs in the attacking third to his solid defensive play and another assist, Josh made his presence felt throughout the match.
United’s long road trip continues on Wednesday, May 15. The club will be in Phoenix competing in their U.S. Open Cup debut. The match will be available to be streamed on ESPN+ at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time.
Looking beyond that, United will also be on the road on Saturday, May 18 as they take on Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.