Eric Calvillo leads the locomotive charge after the return
Eric Calvillo has never been in better form than his charge in the last three weeks since returning from the national team for El Salvador. It’s no coincidence that El Paso Locomotive is now the hottest team in the USL Championship.
The 24-year-old El Paso midfielder, who briefly played in MLS for San Jose earlier in his career, scored eight goals in six professional seasons when he left the Locomotive at the end of May to play for El Salvador in the League of Nations. One of those goals came for El Paso in May, which seemed to be his lot for the year.
This was not the case. Since returning to El Paso for the June 18 game against Detroit, Calvillo has snatched four goals in four games, including a stoppage time equalizer against Atlanta II on Saturday that took the Locomotive’s unbeaten streak to nine games, a top in the USL championship.
A simple explanation would be that this is the Calvillo El Paso expected when they signed him after leaving San Jose. The truth is, Calvillo is setting goals like he hasn’t since his youth in Southern California.
“I missed the team, I missed El Paso and coming back I wanted to have more impact, try to contribute with goals and assists and work hard,” Calvillo said.
“It’s probably just confidence, I’m more attacking than I was. I came back from (national team) duty and changed my mindset, to try to contribute more, not just in the work effort, but also offensively – providing assists or goals as much as possible I take more shots from outside the box or make runs inside and I gives me these opportunities.
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Coach John Hutchinson said: “He’s been in fine form for us. It’s not just goals and assists, it’s what he does around the ball. He came off the bench, did well and got us going. I’m happy with him on the bench, I’m happy he scored. He’s been training well, so it’s good to see something from the training ground coming onto the pitch.
As a result, Calvillo’s career now seems to be booming. After playing on US national teams (U17 and later U19) early in his career, he joined NASL’s New York Cosmos in 2017-18 before being signed by the San Jose Earthquakes.
He played 11 games with San Jose, but most of the previous three years were on loan in the USL, first to Reno and then to Orange County, where he was last year.
Along the way, he took advantage of his eligibility to play for El Salvador which gave him opportunities he didn’t receive with the US national team. In recent Nations League matches, he has featured twice against Granada and his Locomotive teammate Shavon John-Brown.
During his time in the USL, he caught the eye of El Paso Statesmen’s Dean, midfielder Richie Ryan.
“Richie Ryan was the main contact that brought me here,” Calvillo said. “I’ve known him for a while, played against him throughout my career. He was one of the main reasons I came to El Paso.
“Talking to John (Hutchinson) about the band, the success this club has had for the past four years and after the year I’ve had, I wanted to bring something that I learned from OC (Orange County) and what I have in me to try to make history here and win a championship.”
“So many things have gone right for Eric,” Hutchinson said. “He took a bit of time to settle in, like most players, which is normal. It’s a process, there’s no magic time frame. When it clicks, it clicks. When players feel comfortable, they feel comfortable.
“I think you’ve seen some really impressive performances from him. I’m happy with what he’s doing but as far as Eric is concerned, he knows we always expect more and there’s a lot more growth in him.”
In this respect, he reflects his team. El Paso lost its first four games, when Saturday’s opponent Colorado Springs moved to the top of the standings. The Locomotive is 8-2-6 since Colorado Springs has now lost three of its last five, closing the gap between the fourth-place Locos and second-place Switchbacks to six points.
“That’s it for us,” Calvillo said of Saturday’s showdown. “We are in good shape, at the end of the day they come into our house. We are going to protect our house. We want to play the best. To be the best, we want to beat the best. This weekend is a statement. “
Calvillo has made a personal statement since returning from his time in El Salvador and he will look to continue this Saturday.
Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; [email protected]; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks to El Paso Locomotive
What, when, where: A USL Championship Game, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Southwest University Park
Tickets: $10 to $53.
Records: El Paso is 8-6-6, 30 points, 4th in the West Division; Colorado Springs is 12-5-0, 36 points, 2nd