Sebastian Velasquez has packed plenty of highlights into a pro career that is in its 11th season.
He's played in an MLS championship game, a US Open Cup, and in Israel and South Korea.
Saturday night in a 5-0 victory against New York Red Bulls 2, the 31-year-old attacking midfielder reached a new milestone. He played a professional game in front of his mother for the first time.
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I’ve been waiting for this day for so long! After 11 years, tonight will be the first time my mom will see me play a professional soccer game live! All her hard work in the past has payed off and I hope she feels that tonight at SWUP with our LOCOS!
VAMOS @eplocomotivefc! 🟡🔵
— Sebastian Velasquez (@TiaN_Futbol) June 25, 2022
Vilma Velasquez moved to El Paso from Colombia (where Sebastian was born) two months ago after 12 years of exile, in time for a stretch of season that hasn't gone much according to plan. A major part of El Paso's plans coming in, Sebastian Velasquez injured his hamstring two games into the season, shortly before his mother's arrival in El Paso.
The game against New York — its last season in the USL Championship before moving to MLS Next Pro in a third tier of American soccer that more fits its level — was Valasquez's second game back and his first at Southwest University Park this year.
Vilma, an undocumented immigrant in the 2000s before she was deported on the eve of Sebastian's pro career 12 years ago, immigrated back to the United States legally two months ago.
"It’s amazing," said Velasquez, who had an assist and played dominantly for 58 minutes before subbing out. "It gave me so much motivation to know my mom was watching me.
"She worked her whole life in this country illegally, she knew my dreams since I was a little kid to play professional soccer. There are lots of kids in El Paso, around the world, who dream of playing professional soccer, their parents have to push for them.
"My mother pushed for me, she did everything she could only to be deported. Now she’s sitting in the stands, legally, watching me play and we got three points."
Velasquez has set other milestones in El Paso. He came here in 2019 from South Korea so his daughter Sofia could be born in the United States. Among the Locos he took the lead after the Aug. 3 shooting in embracing the EP Fusion, the girls soccer team that was having a fundraiser at Walmart when the shooting began.
On the pitch he scored five goals in 16 games in the charge to the 2019 Western Conference finals.
He left after that season for Miami, then Israel, but came back last season, citing his deep feelings for El Paso.
"I never expected El Paso to become a home for me," Velasquez said. "I bought my house here, my daughter was born here, my lady's out here, my mom's out here, she's working out here. This is home. I'm proud to represent El Paso. I'm proud to say El Paso is my home."
As for Saturday, it went predictably well. He set up the first goal in the game's third minute, narrowly missing a shot that led to a goalmouth scramble Christian Francois finished.
In the 19th minute he maneuvered along the Red Bulls' end line before slotting the ball out to Nick Hinds, who put El Paso ahead 3-0 with a wonder goal in the upper left corner. Velasquez earned the assist.
He completed 91 percent of his passes before subbing out in the 58th minute, in the process showing how much better a surging El Paso team can be with him in the lineup.
"He's a guy who can definitely unlock a door," coach John Hutchinson said. "The bolts are tight, but he has the skill set to make the pass no one sees. He has a big left foot.
"To me, there are things bigger than football, and for him to play in front of his mum, it's been 11 years — we mentioned it pregame, it's a wonderful thing for him and the players as well — there's stuff like this that goes on in life and Velasquez is a beautiful guy. I love working with him.
"We had a hard conversation five, six weeks ago. You've got to give credit. The conversation was difficult for both of us, but when I see him tonight, when I see the way he works every single day, it's a credit to him, it's a credit to the group for dragging him along, I'm happy for him. I'm happy his mum got to watch him play."
Going forward, El Paso looks to be a much better team with a healthy Velasquez.
"I bring excitement, I bring creativity, I bring a spark to the crowd, I connect with my teammates," Velasquez said. "When I'm on the field the guys are contagious to the energy I have and it showed today."
The Locomotive at at Rio Grande Valley Wednesday. Kickoff in Edinburg is set for 6:30 p.m. Mountain time and will be televised on ESPN+.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Sebastian Velasquez plays in front of mom for the first time as pro