The 2021 United Soccer League Championship season might be a few months away, but for the El Paso Locomotive FC, the roster is already starting to form.

Several players will return for next season, and one new player should help out in a big way.

El Paso has been extremely successful in its first two seasons of USL Championship play. The former expansion team has made a pair of deep runs in the Western Conference playoffs. Locomotive FC has battled through injuries and last season’s COVID delay, but they still have out-performed most teams.

Head coach Mark Lowry implemented a European-style of play, which features ball control with precision passes and cohesive movement that few soccer clubs have used in USL action. El Paso has played its best ball late in each season and into the playoffs. The players on Locomotive FC’s roster bought into Lowry’s system early on and he has retained many of his key contributors from 2019 and 2020.

Logan Ketterer has been one of the league’s top performers since he joined El Paso prior to its inaugural season and he is arguably one of the top goalkeepers in USL. Ketterer is the latest player to sign a contract for 2021 to remain with Locomotive FC. In two seasons, the Madison, Wisconsin, native has recorded 20 shutouts and he has stopped 46% of penalties.

He joins Louis “Chapa” Herrera, Dylan Mares, Bryam Rebellon, Eder Borelli, Macca King, Leandro Carrijo, Nick Ross, Javier Monsálvez “Yuma” Carazo, and newcomer Niall Logue, who have all been signed for next season.

Mares was the most consistent offensive player on the Locomotive roster in 2020 and the midfielder scored four goals and a team-leading four assists while finishing second in the league in chances created. Carrijo, Ross, Yuma and Mares will all have an opportunity to spark the El Paso offense. Carrijo did not join the club until midseason, but the all-time scoring leader for FC Juárez helped Locomotive FC during its playoff run.

The trademark of Lowry’s style of play has been his defense. It has been the big reason why the club has been to the playoffs each of their first two seasons. Locomotive FC are big and physical in the backline and they do not allow teams to control possession in their own zone. Rebellon, Borelli, and King are all major contributors to El Paso’s defense.

The addition of Logue is another piece to the puzzle since he comes from FC Tucson, where he played in USL One, the level below Championship.

Lowry called Logue one of the best center backs in USL One last season and says the left-footed defender exemplifies all of the characteristics that he is looking for. Coach’s three biggest keys are team first, desire to win, and an attitude to learn.

There will be more player signings announced over the next few months as Locomotive FC gets closer to the 2021 USL season. I expect the core roster to return along with a few more new additions to help get El Paso even closer to their first USL championship. Third time’s the charm. 

Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at skaplowitz@krod.com. His column appears periodically in El Paso Inc.’s B-Section.

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