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3 Things we took away from New Mexico’s dramatic victory vs. El Paso

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/06/24, 11:58PM EDT


New Mexico executes clinically after letting lead slip, Dhillon’s play almost delivers Locomotive victory

New Mexico United claimed its first home victory against Derby Del Camino Real rival El Paso Locomotive FC since their inaugural seasons in 2019 as Jacobo Reyes and Nicky Hernandez scored two minutes apart late at Isotopes Park to earn a 3-2 result for the hosts, capping a run of four goals in just over 10 minutes that had seen El Paso take the with three minutes to go in one of the series’ all-time classics.

Here are three things we took away from a wild contest before 9,019 fans in Albuquerque, N.M. 


New Mexico United pulled off one of the more remarkable comebacks in its history as facing the potential ignominy of a defensive implosion against its biggest rival the hosts kept their heads and produced two moments of quality that ended up deciding the contest.

The first came from Marco Micaletto, who had earlier delivered an outstanding first goal in the club’s colors but in the 89th minute showed off his impressive feel for the game in the center of midfield. Picking up possession 35 yards from goal, the Italian read the run of Jacobo Reyes as he toed the back line to remain onside. Micaletto’s beautiful curling delivery found Reyes perfectly for his first goal in Black and Yellow.

Then it came to Daniel Bruce to seal all three points as the game tilted back and forth two minutes later. After an El Paso attack failed to connect, United quickly shifted the ball back upfield through Nicky Hernandez, who led Bruce into space on the left side. The English forward showed composure to engage his defender, allowing Hernandez to join the attack for a return pass that he then swept home into the right corner. Premium chances had been few for the hosts throughout the game, but when they got time and space to operate as the game got stretched, they made the most of it.


The headline for this contest was set to be Amando Moreno converting from the penalty spot against his former club for Locomotive in his first trip back to Isotopes Park, and that would be fair, but the most important part of El Paso’s fightback was the work put in by Justin Dhillon that illustrated how important he could end up being for this side in the long run.

The 28-year-old played a key role in both of Locomotive’s goals. He first showed tremendous footwork to navigate past his defender on the goal line and find enough space to pick out Joaquin Rivas’ near-post run, giving the El Salvador international a goal barely two minutes into his debut for El Paso. That shiftiness was on display again when Dhillon earned the penalty kick that Moreno converted, using a good feint to his left before shifting right and being toppled by New Mexico’s Zico Bailey. The ending didn’t end up going El Paso’s way, but Dhillon showed he’s the No. 9 this side needs to unlock opportunities in the final third.


El Paso Locomotive FC has started with a back three most of the season so far, but on Saturday night the lack of defensive tracking by the wing backs in those situations – or full backs when Noah Dollenmeyer was removed for Joaquin Rivas when Locomotive looked to turn the game’s momentum late – ended up being costly for the visitors.

During the first half, Dayonn Harris was pivotal in creating the best opportunities for New Mexico. Getting the chance to isolate one-on-one with Dollenmeyer, the Canadian’s speed was hard for the rangy center back to handle, putting him on his heels. Harris’ cutback cross provided the set-up for Micaletto’s opener, and he might have scored himself late in the half before suffering an injury that required him to depart at the break.

That gave El Paso a level of respite in the second half, but the same challenges reared their heads on New Mexico’s late goals. Coming from a wide position initially on the left, Jacobo Reyes’ run wasn’t tracked by the outside defender, giving him a free run in behind the center backs to finish, while on the winner Bolu Akinyode was pulled out of the center to square up with Bruce, giving space in the center that Nicky Hernandez capitalized on for the winner. El Paso now sits with one point from five games, and while there were good spells on Saturday and the chance to take home victory, the visitors’ weren’t tight enough defensively to make it happen.  

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