skip navigation

THE MORNING TEA – Locomotive FC Locked In, Targeting Top Spot

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/16/20, 7:30AM EDT


Roots make move to Championship for 2021; New Mexico tickets selling quickly

There’s a new, well-known club ready to join the Championship for the 2021 campaign, but ahead of a big night of midweek action we’re going to start today with a team that’s already made a name for itself on the field and off as it closes in on its second postseason berth. Here’s your Morning Tea for Wednesday.



A second consecutive trip to the postseason feels like a formality at this point for El Paso Locomotive FC. In fact, Head Coach Mark Lowry’s side could clinch its spot in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs on Wednesday night when it takes on Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

But even with the side on a six-game undefeated streak and a three-game winning streak, there’s nothing being taken for granted given the club’s big-picture ambition.

“You have to continue that form and pressure and intensity that we’re building into every game and this one is no different,” Lowry told KTSM’s Colin Deaver on Tuesday. “It’s a game we want to win and are desperate to win, but we know Colorado will be difficult.”

Locomotive FC is one of the form teams in the Championship as of this moment. Those three wins in a row have come against Real Monarchs SLC, New Mexico United, and San Antonio FC. Each win has held a different reason for significance. For the Monarchs it was revenge for last year’s postseason elimination. For New Mexico, it was Locomotive FC’s first win all-time in the series between the regional rivals.

For San Antonio, it was victory against the last undefeated side in this year’s competition and an opportunity to potentially avoid a trip to Toyota Field when the postseason begins. Trailing New Mexico by two points with a game in hand going into Wednesday’s game, victory would send El Paso into first place. If it can end the season there, it’s guaranteed at least one home game against a potentially easier foe – likely FC Tulsa or Austin Bold FC – than a strong SAFC squad.

With one final meeting coming on the penultimate weekend of the season between Locomotive FC and United, getting the edge now means having the opportunity to defend it later.

That’s the key motivator for El Paso as it looks to record its first four-game winning streak in the club’s short history.

“Our ambition is to be at the top of our mini-group, rather than just make the playoffs,” said defender Andrew Fox, named on Tuesday to the Championship’s Team of the Week for Week 12. “That’s all the motivation we need, going into every game knowing we have to win, and Wednesday is no exception.”



Hartford Athletic vs. New York Red Bulls II

Group F

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Dillon Stadium Predictor: HFD Wins 41% | Draw 23% | NY Wins 36%
Group F
The Gist: Hartford Athletic will try to hold off a charge from the New York Red Bulls II for the postseason as the sides meet at Dillon Stadium for the third of four meetings between the teams this regular season. Second-placed Hartford holds a seven-point lead over the third-placed Red Bulls II entering the contest but is coming off its heaviest defeat of the season after falling 5-0 to group leader Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday night. The Red Bulls II, meanwhile, are looking like their old selves after a 6-0 win in their last game against the Philadelphia Union II last Wednesday night that saw Omar Sowe score his first professional hat trick. If the Red Bulls II can find a way to victory, it could make the final stretch of the season an interesting one for the group’s second playoff place.
Discipline: None

Indy Eleven vs. Louisville City FC

Group E

7:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium Predictor: IND Wins 40% | Draw 29% | LOU Wins 31%
Group E
The Gist: First place in Group E is on the line when Indy Eleven and Louisville City FC meet for the fourth and final time this regular season with LouCity holding a one-point lead with four games to go for both sides. Louisville has gone 2-0-1 so far this season against Indy, including a 3-1 victory when the sides last met at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 5. That run has extended the long-standing edge LouCity has held in the LIPAFC, with the side now undefeated in nine games (5-0-4) since last losing to Indy on May 5, 2018 across the regular season and playoffs. The three prior games have been a key to Louisville passing Indy in the Group E standings, with the club’s current undefeated run now at seven games. Indy is coming off a win as well after defeating Sporting Kansas City II 2-1 last Wednesday night, and would gain the inside track on first place if it can end Louisville’s hex. If LouCity should take victory, however, Indy could see third-placed Saint Louis FC coming up fast in its rearview mirror over the final weeks of the season.
Discipline: None

Atlanta United 2 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Fifth Third Bank Stadium Predictor: ATL Wins 16% | Draw 22% | TBR Wins 62%
Group H
The Gist: The Tampa Bay Rowdies can clinch their place in the postseason with a draw against Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night, but will be hoping to claim all three points on the road as they look to ward off the challenge of the Charleston Battery for first place in Group H. The Battery claimed their second consecutive victory against the Rowdies last Friday night at Patriots Point to move within three points of Tampa Bay at the top of the group standings, while also holding a game in hand. Tampa Bay will try to ensure the Battery have to win to catch them by completing a season sweep of Atlanta, which it has earned three victories against this season. Coming off a 2-1 defeat to Miami FC on Saturday, Atlanta has been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but its young standouts could still be looking to make some noise in its final three games of the season.
Discipline: None

Philadelphia Union II vs. Loudoun United FC

Group F

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Subaru Park Predictor: PHI Wins 35% | Draw 25% | LDN Wins 40%
Group F
The Gist: The Union II will be hoping for better fortune as they square off with Loudoun United FC for the second consecutive game after being held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night that saw United goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre in sparkling form. The rookie shot-stopper tied a Championship record with 13 saves to deny Philadelphia all three points in a 1-1 draw that saw Loudoun reduced to 10 men after only 13 minutes following a red card to Adam Lundegard. Both teams are now longshots for the postseason after last Saturday’s result, but if they can provide anywhere close to the same level of action there could be plenty of entertainment at Subaru Park.
Discipline: Loudoun - Adam Lundgard (Suspended), Michael Gamble (Suspended)

Miami FC vs. Birmingham Legion FC

Group H

7:30 p.m. ET |
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium Predictor: MIA Wins 43% | Draw 25% | BHM Wins 32%
Group G
The Gist: Both Miami FC and Birmingham Legion FC need victories for very different reasons when they meet on Wednesday night, with Miami hoping to keep its postseason hopes alive and Legion FC looking to maintain its position at the top of Group G. Miami kept in the postseason hunt with a 2-1 victory in its last outing that saw Miguel Gonzalez score the decisive goal, but it remains on a knife-edge when it comes to the postseason thanks to the Charleston Battery’s extended run of success. Miami is 15 points behind Charleston with six games to play – including a meeting between the sides on Sunday night – and that means victory is required to close the gap. Birmingham, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 defeat to the Charlotte Independence on Saturday that reduced the gap between the two clubs at the top of Group G to a single point. With only one win in its last five games, Legion FC is looking to find a turnaround in form as it closes in on clinching a second consecutive playoff berth.
Discipline: Birmingham - Anderson Asiedu (Suspended)

El Paso Locomotive FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Group C

9:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Southwest University Park Predictor: ELP Wins 58% | Draw 24% | COS Wins 18%
Group C
The Gist: El Paso Locomotive FC can move into first place in Group C with victory on Wednesday night as it faces a Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side that would be eliminated from playoff contention with a defeat. Locomotive FC remained in position to overtake New Mexico United for first place on Saturday night as it grabbed victory in stoppage time against the previously undefeated San Antonio FC. El Paso is two points behind New Mexico with a game in hand and is undefeated in six games as it prepares for the final stretch of the season. Colorado Springs, on the other hand, is still looking for its first win since the season resumed after a 4-1 defeat against Real Monarchs SLC last Wednesday pushed it to the brink of elimination. With five games to go, there’s still a very slim chance for the Switchbacks, but it would have to hand El Paso defeat on Wednesday to keep those chances alive.
Discipline: None

San Antonio FC vs. Austin Bold FC

Group D

9:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Toyota Field Predictor: SA Wins 55% | Draw 22% | ATX Wins 23%
Group D
The Gist: San Antonio FC will try to rebound from its first loss of the season as it faces Austin Bold FC, which would take control of second place in the Group D standings with victory on the road at Toyota Field. San Antonio became the final team to fall from the ranks of the undefeated on Saturday night as a late goal gave El Paso Locomotive FC a 2-1 victory, but SAFC returns home with a chance to secure first place in the group with a draw against Austin. Victory will be the aim for the hosts, though, as it pursues homefield advantage beyond the group in the postseason, and it will be too for Bold FC as it looks to pass FC Tulsa for second place. Austin has drawn four games in a row – including its last two outings against Tulsa – but with a win would take a two-point lead with four games to go. After earning a 1-1 draw when they last visited Toyota Field, the visitors will be hoping to go one better on Wednesday night.
Discipline: None

Real Monarchs SLC vs. Portland Timbers 2

Group C

10:00 p.m. ET |
Venue: Zions Bank Stadium Predictor: SLC Wins 55% | Draw 21% | POR Wins 24%
Group A
The Gist: Real Monarchs SLC will try to keep its slim playoff hopes alive as it plays host to a Portland Timbers 2 side coming off its first win of the season as it visits Zions Bank Stadium. The Monarchs came closer to becoming the first defending USL Championship Final-winner to fail to reach the playoffs the following year on Saturday afternoon after a 2-0 defeat to New Mexico United at Zions Bank Stadium. That defeat, and El Paso Locomotive FC’s victory later in the night, left Real with an 11-point deficit to make up in its final five games of the season. It will try to close that gap – and hope Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC can help its cause by defeating El Paso on Wednesday night – against Portland, which took a 3-0 win against Tacoma Defiance last Wednesday in its most recent outing. With a trip to El Paso looming on Saturday night, the Monarchs have to take all three points from this one.
Discipline: None




- The big news on Tuesday was the arrival of Oakland Roots SC in the Championship for the 2021 season. Founded in 2018, the club is one of the more unique with its goal of using professional soccer as a conduit for social good. Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus broke down what Roots will bring to the Championship next spring.

- The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter and Sam Stejskal, meanwhile, spoke with Roots co-founders Edreece Arghandiwal and Benno Nagel, the club’s Chief Purpose Officer Mike Geddes and Chairman Steven Aldrich, going behind the scenes on the club’s formation and direction for an in-depth feature that’s a must-read.

- Memphis 901 FC made a coaching change on Tuesday, relieving Head Coach Tim Mulqueen of his duties and installing assistant coach Ben Pirmann as Interim Head Coach ahead of Saturday’s visit to Louisville City FC. “The results just haven’t been good enough, simple as that. We needed freshening up,” said 901 FC Sporting Director Tim Howard told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Corinne Kennedy.

- The LA Galaxy II pulled off a remarkable three-goal comeback to earn a 3-2 victory against Las Vegas Lights FC on Tuesday night as Augustine Williams reached nine goals for the season. Los Dos are now two points ahead of San Diego Loyal SC and three points ahead of Orange County SC in the Group B standings in a playoff race that figures to go down to the wire.

- Louisville City FC has a chance to extend its lead at the top of Group E when it visits Indy Eleven on Wednesday night in the fourth and final LIPAFC of the regular season. Ahead of the game, Head Coach John Hackworth spoke with WDRB’s John Lewis about Antoine Hoppenot’s surge in form and playoff projections with four games left in the season.

- The Tampa Bay Rowdies have a playoff berth in sight as they visit Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night, but in the big picture the side faces a battle for first place with the Charleston Battery that could be decided at Al Lang Stadium on the final weekend of the season. “We’re in a good spot,” Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins told The Unused Substitute’s Jake Nutting. “It’s now about capitalizing on that the best we possibly can. So in many respects I’m pleased, but this is the interesting bit. This is the bit we want to get right. Rest assured we’re doing everything we can to do that.”

- With the potential the side could clinch its second playoff trip on Saturday, New Mexico United said the 1,000 tickets on sale for its “home” game at Weidner Field against Colorado Springs Switchbacks are selling quickly. “The opportunity to see them in person finally for the first time this year, I think is something that a lot of people are taking advantage of, and to that point, there are just a couple hundred left,” said The Curse supporters group President David Carl.

- Sacramento Republic FC is still on an eight-game undefeated streak, but Head Coach Mark Briggs was not happy with his side’s late letdown on Saturday night against Reno 1868 FC that resulted in 3-3 draw. “We were the better team, but we have to learn,” Briggs told reporters. “It’s not good enough to keep saying ‘Next time, next time.’ No, there’s not a next time.”

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos