El Paso rolls into The Lab on Devon Sandoval Night

El Paso rolls into The Lab on Devon Sandoval Night

A new season means the renewal of rivalries. For New Mexico United supporters that means two opportunities to see the retooled squad of El Paso Locomotive FC. This time around, Locomotive will be looking to spoil Devon Sandoval Night for United.

Anyone following El Paso heading into the season wasn’t happy with what they were seeing. Several offseason moves and the results in the preseason didn’t give supporters a whole lot of confidence. That feeling carried over into the regular season as the club lost its first three matches of the year. But since then, they’ve been the hottest club in the league, going unbeaten in their next eight matches and storming up the table.

In his weekly press conference, United Head Coach Zach Prince was quick to talk about that fact. “Clearly they’re a streaky team. Whether positively or negatively. It’s going to be a tough game, there’s zero doubt about that.”

They’ve found the offensive spark and the man leading the charge is a familiar foe, Luis Solignac. The third-year man has always been a thorn in United’s side, but he is taking the reigns in El Paso now that Diego Luna and others have moved on. Solignac can score from different angles and excels at hold-up play.

Where El Paso struggles is in the defensive third. Direct play can break their lines and now that it’s been released that Yuma will be absent from the match due to injury, they have questions that will need to be answered. Fortunately for the Locomotive, they do have veterans Eder Borelli and Nicholas Hinds that they can lean on. The duo has been with the club for some time and has a great sense of where each other will be. They will face a tough test with the wide play of United and may struggle to rotate in time to catch some of the more creative chances from New Mexico.

Player to Watch

Emmanuel Sonupe – Sonupe is a name that should be recognizable from 2022. The midfielder has the ability to play box-to-box and is solid when tracking back. He will have his hands full trying to contain Sergio Rivas or Chris Wehan, but his good first step could be a big factor in shutting down the ability of the United midfielders to receive the ball and turn.

Prior to San Antonio, United had been on the upswing with their momentum. Confident play and a run of four unbeaten matches had the club within striking distance of the top of the table. Against San Antonio though, United looked more like the club who had struggled at times before the run. The thing about that performance, particularly the first half, was that it wasn’t indicative of how the Black & Yellow play. The second half was a far better indication of what United is capable of.

“You have to give them (San Antonio) credit,” said New Mexico United President and CEO Peter Trevisani during his weekly segment on TEAM Talk on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM. “They want to come out and intimidate you. I think in the first half we played like we were intimidated. The second half felt a lot better. We came out, got a goal, and could have gotten another.”

With creative play out of the midfield, United was able to get the better of the defending champions for forty-five minutes. Sergio Rivas failed to score for the first time in five matches, but he was still a problem for the opposition. His ability to drive the ball forward will be important against El Paso while forcing them to turn and run toward their own goal. When they do, they are susceptible to making mistakes.

United really hasn’t struggled defensively in recent matches. Even though they lost against San Antonio, the goals that were conceded were low-chance opportunities. Kyle Colonna acquitted himself well while filling in for Kalen Ryden, but the veteran should be back on the teamsheet for the crucial matchup. Will Seymore and Ryden will need to keep Solignac with his back to goal to limit his personal opportunities to influence the outcome of the match.

Player to Watch

Sergio Rivas – Rivas has been on a tear over the past month. With four goals in five matches, he’s been in top form. Rivas has been able to create out of the midfield and continues to find himself in positions to contribute to the success of the club. If Rivas can run at the midfield and backline of El Paso, it could be a very productive night for him.

Saturday night’s match between El Paso and New Mexico is set to kickoff from The Lab at 7:00 p.m. (MT). Coverage for the match will begin at 6:00 p.m. (MT) on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM with the pre-match show featuring Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman. The pair continues with kickoff, bringing all of the play-by-play action.