’22 Derby del Camino Real begins in El Paso


The rivalry between New Mexico United and El Paso Locomotive FC is arguably the one to watch in the entire USL right now. It’s at a point where the on-the-pitch antics have carried over into the preseason meeting between these two sides. Even without anything on the line, these two clubs put it all out there.

After plenty of goals, cards, and differences of opinion between players or supporters over the first three seasons, 2022 is already shaping up to be more of the same.

Both clubs started off their 2022 campaigns with an impressive performance on the pitch, but they had vastly different results. United walked away from their home opener with a 2-0 over Las Vegas, while El Paso lost to Sacramento Republic 3-1. It’s not like El Paso played poorly. If you look at the stats from the match, Locomotive dominated the play on the pitch. They just couldn’t capitalize on the chances they created for themselves.

Under a new head coach, it creates an opportunity for guys like Diego Luna or Dylan Mares to take the next step in their development. One match into their season, both of them look like they’re on the right track, but the club hasn’t quite put 2 and 2 together. To be fair, it is only one week into the season and there’s plenty of time for them to get on the same page. There’s a very real chance that in a few months El Paso will be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

We can only guess at this point what El Paso will want to try and do on Saturday, but you can be sure that they will try to involve Luna and Mares as much as possible.

Player to Watch

Eric Calvillo – The El Salvador international is coming off of a successful loan season with Orange County before signing with the Locomotive. With a strong presence in the midfield, Calvillo could be crucial to their chances of success this season.

United, meanwhile, are riding high after finally opening their season with a win for the first time in club history. Head Coach Zach Prince was one of three new coaches to pick up a win in their debut and there were a lot of good things to take away from the opener.

The biggest one was the club’s ability to close out the match. Unlike in seasons past where we saw United content to sit back and try to see the match out, at least through one game they were attacking until the final whistle. That’s something that supporters have been clamoring for and this could be a very good sign of things to come. The attack was fluid. United converted two set pieces into goals. And defensively they withstood the direct play attempts from Las Vegas.

Despite the number of positives from what we saw, there were still some areas of concern. Josh Suggs didn’t haven’t a standout match and looked indecisive. Prince also had to make an early change after an injury forced Austin Yearwood out of the match and without any other centrebacks on the team sheet, it was a bit of a makeshift club, but it worked out. Yearwood was seen on crutches after the match and may end up being out for a number of weeks.

There are two keys to this match for United. First, they can’t allow the emotion of the match to get to them. If they can stay in control, their odds of picking up points on the road greatly increase. The second is to continue to play direct and get Tabort Etaka Preston and Neco Brett involved early and often.

Player to Watch

Tabor Etaka Preston – Preston nearly opened his account against Las Vegas and is already showing why he was a priority target in the offseason. His pace is going to cause issues for most of the clubs that United will face and playing alongside Brett and Chris Wehan, he could be in for a big season.

Prediction

I’m not expecting a clean sheet in this one, but I do think United has a very strong chance to go down to El Paso and pick up a win. I’m going 2-1 United.

Saturday’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 6 P.M. MT from Southwest University Park. The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN Deportes and will be carried locally on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.