HERRIMAN, Utah – El Paso Locomotive FC continued its undefeated start to the 2021 USL Championship season – and extended its overall regular-season undefeated streak to 18 games – as goals by Josue Aaron Gomez and Macauley King earned a 2-1 victory against Real Monarchs SLC on Friday night at Zions Bank Stadium.
Undefeated in their prior regular-season visits to Zions Bank Stadium, Locomotive FC got out to a perfect start with a goal after just 58 seconds. 17-year-old midfielder Diego Luna delivered an angled ball into the right side of the penalty area that Bryam Rebellon headed strongly toward the top of the six-yard area where Gomez crashed i to head home to the right corner of the net.
The visitors went close against two minutes later as King delivered a deep ball from the right to the left side of the penalty area. Luis Solignac cushioned a pass back toward Nick Ross advancing to the top of the penalty area, and the midfielder took one touch to control before shooting low wide of the right post. The game began to settle down after El Paso’s early pressure subsided and it looked to control possession and tempo, but Ross went close again in the 25th minute as the visitors quickly moved in transition as Luna found Ross in the left channel for a shot that rattled the crossbar.
Locomotive FC went close to a second shortly before the halftime break as Rebellon combined with Luna before sending Solignac into the right side of the penalty area, and the Argentine fired a low shot that Monarchs goalkeeper Andrew Putna just got a foot on to send it wide of the left post.
The Monarchs found difficulty in breaking El Paso down in the first half – their lone shot on goal by Milan Iloski was easily handled by Locomotive FC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer – but the hosts opened the second half more brightly as Josimar Quintero played Iloski into the left side of the penalty area, drawing Ketterer off his line, but the attacking midfielder was unable to pick out a teammate with his chipped cross into the six-yard area allowing the visitors to clear.
Ross again threatened for Locomotive FC eight minutes into the second half as he first played a ball for Solignac on the left and then shifted to join the attack and receive a return pass as he battled through a defender before firing a low shot that was parried by Putna. Solignac then almost found the net as his sliding effort to get on the end of a driven pass through the six-yard area by King saw the ball go just out of his reach and behind for a goal kick, while Eder Borelli found the left side-netting after a passing move sent him into space for a snap-shot just inside the left edge of the penalty area.
While the Locomotive FC lead remained at a goal, though, Real remained in the game and the hosts almost pulled level just past the hour-mark on a corner kick from the right by Iloski that found Charlie Wehan at the near post for a flicked header that went side of the far post. Solignac then had another big chance off an unlucky deflection for Real defender Jaziel Orozco’s back on an upfield ball which the Argentine controlled and drove toward goal, only for Putna to make a big one-on-one save.
El Paso’s insurance goal arrived on the ensuing corner kick, however, as Luna delivered a deep ball from the left into the right side of the penalty area where King was alone to volley home into the net with 20 minutes to go. The Monarchs almost hit back immediately as Wehan wove into the left side of the penalty area and cut back a cross that was intercepted, but went the way of Ibrahim Bance, who fired a first-time shot from the top of the penalty area over the crossbar.
Locomotive FC was reduced to 10 men with 11 minutes to go as Rebellon was sent off after kicking at Bance after the two went into a hard challenge for the ball, and the Monarchs had chances to make the final minutes interesting. A big chance came with two minutes to go as Iloski moved into space in the penalty area but fired over the crossbar, but in the first minute of stoppage time Iloski picked out the top-left corner of the net with a free kick from 25 yards out to the right side of the penalty area to make it a one-goal game. That would be all, however, as El Paso saw out the remaining minutes to claim all three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Macauley King, El Paso Locomotive FC – King recorded what proved to be the game-winning goal and was strong throughout the contest, recording two key passes and completing 39 of 47 passes overall while winning 4 of 6 duels.
ELP – Josue Aaron Gomez (Bryam Rebellon) 1’
ELP – Macauley King (Diego Luna) 70’
SLC – Milan Iloski 90+1’