EL PASO, Texas – For a second consecutive week, El Paso Locomotive FC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer came up with the save when his side needed it most. As a result, his side is going back to the Western Conference Final in the USL Championship Playoffs for a second consecutive year.
Ketterer denied New Mexico United’s Romeo Parkes to close the fourth round of a penalty shootout to give his side the edge before Distel Zola converted to open the fifth round for the hosts to earn a 5-3 victory from the spot after the sides had played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time at Southwest University Park.
Parkes had given United’s season a lifeline with an outstanding goal in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time, but stepped to the spot with the pressure on after El Paso’s Saeed Robinson had converted to open the fourth round. The Jamaican’s shot low to the left corner was telegraphed by Ketterer, who made the save that allowed Zola to step up and shoot into the right corner and send the hosts through.
The fifth meeting of the season between the Southwestern rivals had opened with plenty of energy, but it took until the 15th minute for either side to create a first good look at goal as New Mexico center back Kalen Ryden stepped forward after intercepting possession in midfield and launched a long-range shot that flew wide of the left post.
El Paso made its first big chance of the game count on the half-hour, however, as Richie Ryan took possession away from United’s Amando Moreno in midfield and lifted a pass forward to Josue Aaron Gomez. The forward slipped a pass outside to the left for Dylan Mares, and Mares proceeded to cut centrally into the top-left edge of the penalty area and curl a shot that picked out the top-right corner of the net to leave New Mexico goalkeeper Cody Mizell with little chance.
The hosts had another dangerous moment four minutes later as Gomez went around his defender and into the left side of the penalty area before delivering a low cross that a combination of Mizell and Josh Suggs were just able to clear after it had initially deflected toward goal off the United defender.
New Mexico looked to hit back 11 minutes into the second half as Moreno found Chris Wehan on the left only for his shot to drift wide of the right post from the top of the penalty area. Mizell then made a solid save to deny a header by Gomez just past the hour-mark, and Gomez was denied again on a tight-angle shot from the left that was parried behind for a corner kick.
United continued to try and find an equalizer late and a cross from the right by David Najem was decisively punched clear by El Paso goalkeeper Logan Ketterer just ahead of United goalkeeper Devon Sandoval in the 89th minute. Another delivery by Wehan toward the top-right corner of the six-yard area a minute later was cleared away by the defense, but then as time appeared to have run out on United, Wehan found Parkes in space 25 yards from goal. The Jamaican took a look up and fired a brilliant shot into the bottom-left corner of the net just past Ketterer’s dive to send the game to extra time.
The goal appeared to give New Mexico a second wind and Wehan corkscrewed a shot just high and wide of the right corner of the net in the 96th minute after Parkes had been crowded out at the top of the penalty area. Suggs also had a chance with a header off a cross by David Najem from the right that was saved by Ketterer four minutes later, while in the final minute of the first period El Paso’s Robinson was denied a point-blank range by Mizell after a low cross by Moses Makinde from the left side of the penalty area.
Chances proved fewer in the second 15 minutes as the game went to a shootout, where El Paso received a couple of pieces of good fortune in its first two shots. Mizell went the right way on shots to the left corner by Eder Borelli and Nick Ross and got a piece of both, only to see the ball spin on and into the net. Ketterer, meanwhile, was unable to lay a glove on any of New Mexico’s first three shots as Sandoval, Wehan and Ryden all converted.
That was all for naught for the visitors in the end, however, as Ketterer’s denial of Parkes proved the difference and set up a showdown with Phoenix Rising FC for a place in the USL Championship Final next Saturday.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Logan Ketterer, El Paso Locomotive FC – Ketterer made a pair of saves in the 120 minutes of action, but then came up big to give his side an edge in a penalty shootout for a second consecutive round.