El Paso Locomotive FC's Dylan Mares will be one of the players to watch when his side takes on New Mexico United tonight at Southwest University Park. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC
Two regional rivalries are ready to take the field tonight, kicking off six consecutive days with games in the Championship. Here’s your Morning Tea for Wednesday.
If you look at it a certain way, El Paso Locomotive FC and Miami FC effectively traded playmakers this offseason, with free agency taking Dylan Mares to El Paso as Sebastian Velasquez headed to South Florida.
If that’s the case, then Locomotive FC Head Coach Mark Lowry thinks he got the better end of the moves.
“[Mares] brings goals, he brings creativity,” Lowry told the El Paso Times’ Bret Bloomquist. “He's not going to beat four or five guys off the dribble like Sebastián [Velásquez], but he'll score more goals and get more assists. He's more effective.”
Lowry got the first return on the club’s investment in Mares on Saturday night as his late goal gave Locomotive its first win of the season against Rio Grande Valley FC at Southwest University Park. The victory moved Locomotive FC on top of Group C in the Championship’s restricted format for the remainder of the season, and set up a great midweek clash tonight when the side hosts New Mexico United at 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+).
United is coming off a win of its own on the road to sit a point back of El Paso with two games gone, but what should make Wednesday’s game enticing is the contrast in styles the two sides like to employ. For Locomotive FC, there’s the patient build-up that saw the side record 562 passes against the Toros, the third-most in a game so far in the young season.
For United, the more aggressive approach that saw it record almost half its passes in the opposition’s half against the Switchbacks has produced success, allowing playmakers like Chris Wehan to get into space and run at opposing defenders.
The way Mares can influence the battle in the middle of the field – and the attacking third – could be at the center of the result in a crucial contest for both sides.
“Bringing him here was very intentional,” Lowry told Bloomquist. “He fits into our system perfectly. When he gets his confidence going, he's a very exciting player. His goal was great. He shows great glimpses of his quality and creativity. More than that, he's running – his running for 90 minutes was phenomenal. That for us is the foundation of our team – running. You saw our midfielders today. They didn't stop.”
- Phoenix Rising FC made it two-for-two in Championship Player of the Week honors this season as Solomon Asante claimed the crown, announced on Tuesday. The reigning MVP’s two goals and one assist against the LA Galaxy II saw him earn almost three-quarters of the votes from the national panel.
- Rising FC also made some notable news on Tuesday with the signing of 14-year-old Ansuh Kanneh to a USL Academy contract for the rest of the season. A native of Liberia, Kanneh isn’t just good on the field, but off it as well, as he’s about to become a junior in high school.
- The opening game of tonight’s pair of contests in the Championship could see Tim Howard in action between the sticks for Memphis 901 FC against Birmingham Legion FC on ESPN2. The U.S Soccer legend and 901 FC minority owner, Sporting Director and goalkeeper opened up about his multiple roles at the club, and the soccer culture in Memphis, with Sports Illustrated’s Luis Miguel Echeverry recently.
- It might have come as a surprise on Saturday, but Carrie Taylor’s departure from San Diego Loyal SC was a move the first female assistant coach in the Championship’s history did with a clear path in mind. She spoke with The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter about what’s next for her, and her appreciation for her time on Landon Donovan’s staff.
- USL League One’s South Georgia Tormenta FC will be in action this weekend against the Richmond Kickers as the league’s second season begins, but what the Tormenta are accomplishing in the bigger picture for the local soccer community is remarkable. My colleague Cameron Koubak took a look at the Ibis Foundation’s work in making soccer more accessible for everyone in the region.
- Also, ahead of League One’s kickoff on Saturday, we’ve got a look ahead at the three newcomers to the league, with Union Omaha aiming high in its expansion season, and Fort Lauderdale CF bringing some added star-power to the sidelines.