El Paso, Texas- El Paso Locomotive FC lost their 2023 USL Championship season opener to Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night by the score of 1-0 at Southwest University Park. The result spoiled the debut of new Locomotive head coach/technical director Brain Clarhaut. The result also keeps the dubious streak intact of Locomotive not being able to win a season-opening match. 

The lone goal in the match came toward the end of the first half when a takeaway at midfield led to a counterattack that paid dividends for Sacramento. Russell Cicerone was the player who put that ball in the back of the net allowing the Republic to leave the Borderland with the first three points of the season. 

Despite the loss, El Paso showed a lot of substance in their first performance under Clarhaut. The Locos dominated in several aspects of the match, they just missed where it counted, in their attacking third where goals are scored. 

Here’s what happened

  • The first half of this match was evenly disputed for its entirety. In the opening 15 minutes of the half, Locomotive settled into the match quickly and with relative ease. El Paso captain, Yuma, got a cheap yellow card in the 21st minute, presumably for mouthing off to the referee Elton Garcia. 
  • The Locomotive were showing that they were slightly the better team heading into halftime when in the 42 minute mark, an attack down the right flank by the visiting Republic led to them taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room. Jack Gurr crossed a ball that found Russell Cicerone who slotted the ball into the back of the net.
  • The Locos wasted little time in the second half in establishing themselves as the dominant team. El Paso was proactive in getting things going offensively to the point where a majority of the second half was played in the Locos offensive third as they tried to get the equalizer. 
  • As the minutes lapsed Sacramento went into a more defensively oriented strategy to put the match to bed and come away with the win. Credit has to be given to the visiting side as they were extremely effective in limiting the space that Locomotive could use to attempt to create threats on goal. 

What was said

After the match Clarhaut met with the media, the new Locos boss was clear on what transpired for 90-minutes in downtown El Paso. While he felt his side was the better of the two Clarhaut said, “But what’s the definition of better? Let's be honest, when I came to this team I said to the guys, ‘...if this league was about 600 passes a game we’d have the trophy’.  It’s about goals. In between the boxes, (we were) the better football team. We need to respect the scoreline, we need to be better, take accountability and ownership. If we can do that, that’s how we can grow. We made a bad mistake and got punished for it.”

Clarhaut concluded by saying, “Let’s give Sacramento credit. They were hard to breakdown after they got their goal.” 

What’s next

A quick turnaround will take place for El Paso as they will have another home match on Wednesday night. They will host Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in what will be their 2023 season opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST. As always the match will be televised via streaming on ESPN+.

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