One big party officially spoiled.
El Paso’s Luis Solignac scored twice and visiting Locomotive FC came away with a 2-1 victory over New Mexico United at Isotopes Park on Friday night.
Solignac netted what would be the game winner in the 71st minute, getting behind United’s defense on the right wing and blasting a shot past NMU goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. Friday’s performance gave the El Paso striker 13 goals on the season.
Recently signed Kevaughn Frater scored his first goal of the season for United, tying the score at 1-1 in the 22nd minute on a remarkable shot from a difficult angle left of the goal.
Frater’s highlight-reel tally aside, it proved to be another frustrating home performance for United, which inexplicably has struggled on its home field this season. Despite a raucous, energized crowd announced at 10,721 — and despite a 19-8 advantage in shots — New Mexico could only manage one goal and slipped to 4-6-5 at home.
“Incredible atmosphere tonight and I loved the way we played,” United coach Zach Prince said. “We created so many chances, got people out of their seats and really played incredible soccer. I’m just disappointed we didn’t convert more chances and I’m definitely disappointed in the result.”
United (11-8-9 overall) remained in fifth place in the USL Championship Western Conference standings but just two points ahead of sixth-place El Paso (11-11-7). NMU has six games remaining, while the Locos have five.
New Mexico certainly had its opportunities Friday, with six shots blocked, another banging off the post in the closing minutes, and two apparent goals waved off for offsides calls. Only three of NMU’s flurry of shots ended up being on target, while El Paso put four on net and cashed in two.
Officiating played a role in Friday’s contest, especially early. United had apparent goals by Chris Wehan and Amando Moreno waved off on offside calls within the first 10 minutes.
Wehan later got behind the El Paso defense and made a move to get around goalkeeper Evan Newton but tumbled to the ground. Fans clamored for a penalty kick but none was called. Prince picked up a yellow card for arguing the non-call and let his feelings be known after the match.
“I was disappointed with the officiating,” he said. “I didn’t think it was very good. That first goal (Wehan) puts away — he’s onside. … I don’t want to focus on that too much but it’s part of the game.”
New Mexico had a number of early chances but El Paso scored first on Solignac’s shot from the top of the box in the 18th minute. A centering pass from Ricardo Zacarius put Solignac in position to roll his shot into the left side of the net.
Frater answered moments later, cashing in on a left-footed, cross-field shot from just left of the goal near the end line. His goal sent the match to halftime tied after some late shoving matches between the two rivals.
United had a chance to take the lead early in the second half, but a 25-yard free kick by Wehan went inches over the crossbar.
Solignac converted the go-ahead goal minutes later, drawing boos from the crowd as he ran by the grandstands with his hands cupped over his ears.
New Mexico applied significant pressure in the closing minutes, getting a Romario Williams shot off the post and a pair of shots just over the crossbar in stoppage time. But in the end, the Locos evened the season series, NMU having taken a 2-1 win in El Paso in March.
“We treat every single game as must-win,” Prince said, “so this is no different in that regard. Did I want to sweep El Paso and do I believe we could have? Yes. But it’s very, very easy to get negative in these moments and I refuse to do that.
“I’m proud of the way we attacked this game and of how much time we spent in front of that goal. I see how close we are to scoring four or five goals and I’m telling you, it’s coming. We just have to continue to work.”
United starts a string of three straight road contests Saturday, Sept. 10, at Rio Grande Valley FC.
STATISTICS: El Paso 2, New Mexico 1
STANDINGS: USL Championship standings