Key takeaways from El Paso Locomotive 5-4 goal-fest loss to Las Vegas

The El Paso Locomotive have time to sort out their problems, both in this season and in the week and a half before their next game, and after a confounding 5-4 loss to Las Vegas on Wednesday that marked the highest scoring game in franchise history, that problem was easy to find.

El Paso was buried in stunning fashion by the long ball.

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The Locomotives react to a goal by Las Vegas Lights FC at the Locomotive's Blackout Night game Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas.
The Locomotives react to a goal by Las Vegas Lights FC at the Locomotive's Blackout Night game Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas.

Bombed to death

"There's only one issue at the moment, one issue is glaring, it's glaring at us: It's transition defensively," coach John Hutchinson said after his team fell to 0-3. "Until we get better, until I make the team better in that area we're going to keep conceding these stupid goals.

"They kicked it long, didn't they? I don't think they strung together a pass to score a goal, just kick it over the top, run and score a goal. ...

"It's something I'll reflect on, a long 10 days to reflect on. We have a lot of training sessions coming up, we'll look to deal with long balls. Maybe get the guy with the biggest kick on the team to launch them over their heads and go defend them."

A Lights team dominated for 52 minutes, when it rarely looked troubling, struck for four goals in seven minutes that were variations on the same theme: A sudden counterattack, a bomb that they chased down and, for most of those goals, a long shot that keeper Evan Newton couldn't stop.

Soon enough the crowd took to booing Newton's every touch and even directed negative chants at him.

All Las Vegas goals were against the run of play but by the third time that happened it no longer looked like a fluke.

Comeback comes too late

After falling behind 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3, El Paso fought back and suddenly found its offense when matters were truly dire, but it came too late for a rescue.

After goals from Nick Hinds, Harry Brockbank, Ricardo Zacarias and Dylan Mares, Mares had a chance for an equalizer in the seventh, and final, minute of stoppage time, but his free kick from 25 yards out that proved the last touch of the game curled just high and wide.

"We're struggling a little on transition moments," said Nick Hinds, who came off the bench and scored his first goal as a Locomotive. "We're going to face that a lot against teams in our league so we have to start working on that."

El Paso had 69 percent of possession, 11 corners to Las Vegas' one and 16 shots to Las Vegas' 10, and also spent more time pulling the ball out of the back of their own net.

That was not a good formula for a team now seeking answers.

El Paso Locomotive Diego Abarca, a 16-year-old student at Canutillo High, makes a touch during his El Paso debut Tuesday night against the Las Vegas Lights at Southwest University Park. Abarca is a member of the El Paso Locomotive Academy
El Paso Locomotive Diego Abarca, a 16-year-old student at Canutillo High, makes a touch during his El Paso debut Tuesday night against the Las Vegas Lights at Southwest University Park. Abarca is a member of the El Paso Locomotive Academy

Young El Pasoans make debuts

El Paso said they wanted to use their year-old academy as a feeder for the big club and that paid off when the academy produced its first starter.

Diego Abarca, a 16-year-old Canutillo High student who formerly went to Pebble Hills, started the game in the midfield and became the second academy player in a game. He played through the 58th minute then subbed out just as another academy player, Franklin High 18-year-old Noe Coutino, subbed in for his Locos debut.

Coutino later created a chance.

Last season another Canutillo student and academy player, Diego Garcia, was a late sub against LAFC 2. Garcia was on the bench for this game but didn't play.

The Locomotive have a partnership with Canutillo High that sends six academy players from all over El Paso to that high school. El Paso's practice facility, the West Side Soccer Complex, is directly across the street from Canutillo High.

El Paso has 10 total academy players eligible to suit up for the Locomotive, none are eligible to play UIL high school soccer.

Locos still shorthanded

The Locos were without five regulars, two because of injury and three because of national-team duty.

Injured midfielder Sebastian Velasquez could be available for next weekend's game, while midfielder Chapa Herrera is likely out another two to three weeks.

On national team duty are midfielder Eric Calvill (El Salvador), defender Shavon John-Brown (Grenada) and midfielder Diego Luna (US U-20). Christiano Francois left for the Haitian national team Wednesday morning. All four will miss the next game against the San Diego Loyal on April 3.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso Locomotive suffer confounding goal-fest 5-4 loss to Las Vegas