Saturday night’s venue will be a familiar one for New Mexico United and their supporters. Once again, Southwest University Park plays host to another installment of the rivalry between United and El Paso Locomotive FC.
The two clubs are now in their third year of existence, and since their inception, each has had an impact on the Western Conference. Both made the playoffs in each of their first two seasons and are looking to take the next step forward. El Paso’s next step begins this weekend with their first match of the 2021 season.
El Paso comes into the weekend with a roster that remains very similar to that of last year. Nearly half of their players returned and should be familiar with what Head Coach Mark Lowry wants to in his system. That familiarity could be just what El Paso needs as they work towards leveling back out the series.
Players to Watch
Yuma – The Locomotive defender has been an integral part of the El Paso squad since its inception. A versatile defender, he isn’t afraid to mix it up on the pitch, resulting in several cards in the series with United.
Dylan Mares – Another multi-talented player, Mares has shown an ability to create from nothing. Not only does he have the ability to create opportunities for others, but he has shown that he is capable of scoring from several areas.
United’s season didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for. After falling to RGV 1-0, the club is looking to pick up their first win, and it won’t be easy. Although they hold a slim margin in series between the two clubs, the results in 2020 seemed to swing the momentum towards the Locomotive. Paired with United’s performance in the 2021 opener, this could be one of the toughest matches of the season.
The Black and Yellow have to get out on the right foot if they want to get their season on track. In this weekend’s match, that starts with the midfield. After Andrew Tinari missed out on the opening weekend and Michael Azira didn’t perform up to expectations, the onus is on whoever gets the start this week to make a statement. The Locomotive midfield is one of the more talented groups in the Mountain Division, if not the entire Western Conference. United has to control the midfield by slowing down the attack of El Paso and creating chances for the forwards.
Players to Watch
Andrew Tinari – Tinari was tenacious in the midfield throughout the 2020 season and that intensity was missed against RGV. If he can return this weekend, Tinari should match up well against players like Mares and help solidify the middle of the pitch.
Austin Yearwood – Coming off of one of his best performances ever in the black and yellow, Austin will be busy on Saturday night. All of the forwards for El Paso can generate space and shoot from many different angles. With his reaction time and ability to read his opponents, Austin will hear his name called plenty of times.
Saturday night’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 pm (MDT) from Southwest University Park in El Paso. The match can be viewed domestically on ESPN+ and can be seen by international viewers on YouTube.