The First Of Many!
Friday night was the first ever win in Rio Grande Valley FC's history. Let's take a look at how they got the three points on the road. Merlo Field was the location, home site of Portland Timbers FC 2, a team itself looking for their first win of the young 2016 season. The Toros, similar to their opening match loss to Tulsa, held a strong advantage in possession early, in part due to the steady play of MLS veteran and Houston Dynamo loanee, Collen Warner in the midfield. He was appearing for, in baseball terms, a rehab start. He was joined by fellow Dynamos Sebastien Ibeagha and Bradley Bourgeois, all three of whom you'd assume will appear on the second half of the road trip tonight in Seattle.
In addition to Warner's calm prescense in the midfield, the player that demanded the most attention was Jose Escalante, the young loanee from Honduras. Making his first appearance for the Toros due to paperwork being sorted out, he established himself as the most aggressive player on the pitch almost immediately. He attacked defenders off the dribble and was by no means shy about letting a shot go from distance. One of the long range strikes by Escalante was bending far post, requiring the Timbers keeper to make a diving save, Dzenan Catic followed that up with a shot of his own that was deflected wide and over the endline. On the ensuing corner from Memo Rodriguez, Bourgeois leaped over the Portland defense to put home the header, and the first goal in RGVFC history. They would double their lead before the half. On another great attacking move by Escalante, a Timbers defender had no other choice but to foul him in the penalty area. Catic stepped up and sent a low shot into the left side for his first goal on the young season.
Holding on to the two goal lead was not an easy task for the Toros, especially as Portland increased the attacking pressure in the second half. Long through balls and aggressive counter attacks led to a couple needed saves by Devin Perales, but most of the attacks were squashed before a shot was let go or the shot going wide. Portland finished with 12 shots total but only 2 on target. The Toros also had a few more chances to increase it's lead, including a bending free kick just wide by Memo. But the scoreline held at 2-0 through full time. That gave the Toros their first ever win and kept the Timbers winless on the season.
Ballin' Bulls: Three Toros Who Caught My Eye
Dynamo Theory's Man of the Match, Jose Escalante: The rave reviews I heard about him in the preseason from his teammates rang true as the Honduran exploded onto the scene in his first Toros action. Constantly attacking Timbers defenders off the dribble, Jose led the team with 5 shots, drew the penalty and was a nightmare for Portland all night.
Bradley Bourgeois: B Twice again provided the Toros with incredible pace and pressure on the outside. He was able to not only score the club's first goal but also lock down the Timbers fastest attacker, Victor Arboleda, drawing praise from the Portland play by play team.
Dzenan Catic: The lone forward for the Toros slotted home a penalty in the first half. He went the full 90 for RGVFC and constantly pressured the keeper and put 3 total shots on goal as well.
Talkin' With The Toros:
Jose Escalante on what he felt the club did best to win on Friday:
*Translated* "We were strong when we had the advantage opportunities, were very tidy and always pressed our opponent to not have spaces."
Devin Perales on how the defense has prevented him from being tested too often:
"Defense has been fantastic. We are still working hard everyday to make it even better."
Memo Rodriguez on how it felt to get the club's first win:
"I mean it felt great, we worked hard as a team and it paid of now that we have our first win. We need to fix mistakes in the game and fix them so we can keep a good winning streak going."
Bradley Bourgeois on scoring the first ever Toros' goal:
"It's feels great! To get my first ever goal as a professional and for it to be the first in RGV history is special. I wasn't really thinking about it, I was just glad I could help the team win."
Next Running Of The Bulls:
TONIGHT at 9:30pm CST
Starfire Stadium in Seattle
Watch it live via the USL Match Center on USLSoccer.com
The Good Guys: Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (1-1-0)
The Toros look to make it 2/2 on their Pacific Northwest road trip. It's anticipated they will have all three Dynamo loanees from Friday, Ibeagha, Warner and Bourgeois, for tonight. It will be a good test for the young side, how they play on short rest, with only a few days between matches. I don't expect drastic lineup changes, but there is a good chance Wilmer Cabrera makes some minor adjustments to account for this being the second half of a roadtrip with little time to fully recover from the Portland match. Memo Rodriguez leads the club in shots and shots on goal this season and will continue to look for that final unlocking pass in the final third, and pairing up with Jose Escalante in the attacking midfield makes that job easier. The Toros have an edge of 17-8 on shots on goal over their two opponents, it will be a trend that hopefully continues, so Devin Perales isn't forced into too much action.
The Bad Guys: Seattle Sounders FC 2 (0-3-0)
The Sounders have allowed one more goal each match, 1-0 to Sacramento, 2-0 to Arizona United, then 3-0 to San Antonio FC. Hopefully, RGVFC will continue the trend and get a 4-0 result! Equally as concerning as the goal increase allowed per match, is the goose eggs in the other column each match. The Sounders 2 are coming off a bye, which I'm sure Seattle supporters hope let to some tactical changes to improve the side's success. There is a Saint Vincent and The Grenadines connection on S2, with coach Ezra Hendrickson being a former national teamer and a current national team player Myron Samuel. Two of the players who have led the attack so far this season are Homegrown loanee Darwin Jones and Andy Craven, a draft pick of the Sounders last year, who saw time with both S2 and the first team in 2015. Two other players to watch are 2016 draft pick Zach Mathers and multiple stint Dynamo man Nathan Sturgis. We will see if Seattle can finally break through and find the net, or if the Toros defense will pitch their second straight shutout.