First-half goals by David Estrada and Devon Sandoval weren’t enough to carry the New Mexico United to a seventh road win Saturday — and they also weren’t enough to rescue the team’s shoddy play in the second half as El Paso rallied for a 3-2 win at Southwest University Park.
New Mexico was seeking its fifth straight game with at least one point in the standings but was undone by a pair of Locomotive FC goals in the final 30 minutes, the last coming with less than two minutes before the start of stoppage time.
The United (6-3-2) had their lead in the United Soccer League’s Group C trimmed to just two points over El Paso. Locomotive FC (5-2-3) has 18 points with six more matches remaining on their regular-season schedule; the United have 20 points with just five matches left.
Teams are awarded three points for each win and one for a tie.
New Mexico’s Estrada broke the ice in the 13th minute with a right-footed shot from the middle of the box and a 1-0 lead. He took a feed from Amando Moreno and beat El Paso keeper Logan Ketterer with a try that found a seam in the bottom left corner.
El Paso tied it 12 minutes later when Macauley King headed a corner kick from the far side of the field past United keeper Cody Mizell. King was stationed at the outer edge of the box when he headed the ball past the ankles of Mizell into the net.
New Mexico made it 2-1 moments before halftime when Sandoval pounded a penalty kick into an open net past Ketterer. The opportunity was set up when Moreno drew a foul from King in the box in the 40th minute. Sandoval’s shot had Ketterer guessing the wrong direction, leaving the right side of the net open.
El Paso tied it again 15 minutes into the second half on an own goal by New Mexico. United defender Austin Yearwood was charged with the equalizer, making it 2-2 in the 60th minute.
It appeared to be headed for a draw until Dylan Mares drove a perfect feed into traffic from the wing by Omar Salgado and beat an off-balance Mizell for the game-winner.
The match had five minutes of extra time, but neither team had a serious scoring attempt, ending a four-match streak of getting at least one point for New Mexico.
The United return to action Saturday on the road in Salt Lake City against Real Monarchs SLC.