RGVFC Ruins Rival’s Run
It was another hotly contested South Texas Derby in the Valley on Saturday night. A game with serious playoff implications for RGVFC and San Antonio FC, felt like an early glimpse into USL playoff action. The teams were evenly matched on shots, corners, and determination.
The wind affected match would not see a goal until after the 70th minute. Following all three forward positions being subbed out, it was one of the new guys, Memo Rodriguez, who set up the goal. controlling the ball near the endline, he picked out Eric Bird in front of the net. Bird knocked the ball off the right post and in, as the San Antonio keeper was frozen. The second came quickly after, when Kevin Garcia sent in a great cross to the head of another sub, Ruben Luna, who bounced it home. He finished the regular season with 7 goals, leading the team, despite only playing in 12 matches. The Toros weren’t done. Following a great pressure from Memo, he took possession of the ball in the box, and dropped it off to, you guessed it, another sub Yair Arboleda. The young, Colombian Dynamo loanee controlled the ball, and knocked it in for his first goal of the season.
This match was a well played match, all around, by both teams. The true star of the match may be somebody who didn’t touch the ball once. Toros’ head coach Wilmer Cabrera made the right subs, at the right time. He has shown throughout the year, he is a truly top class coach in American soccer, and this match might have been his crown jewel.
Ballin’ Bulls: Last Week’s Top Three Toros
Dynamo Theory’s Man of the Match Memo Rodriguez: The former Houston Homegrown product made a huge impact off the bench for the RGVFC, earning a USL Team of the Week honor. He constantly pressured the ball, and tallied two assists, one to Eric Bird, and the other to Arboleda. He also fired some shots from distance, showing great aggression.
Eric Bird: Birdman did a great job in the middle of the pitch, making timely steals as the club’s defensive midfielder. When Jorginho James came on for Emilio Garcia, Bird pressed forward, and did a great job moving the ball around in the final third. He tallied his 6th goal of the season on a nice strike, and the official game winner.
Yair Arboleda: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Yair has the juice. He changes the game immediately when he subs in. His pace, skills on the ball, and offensive aggression are a jolt to the Toros attack. He created some great chances up the right wing, including the hockey assist on Bird’s goal, before scoring his own in stoppage time.
Kevin Garcia on how it feels to go undefeated against rival SAFC:
“It feels great, but not just to go undefeated against SA, but to end the season on a high note. The guys have grown tremendously this year and I couldn't have asked for a better group to be a part of. We're a big family.”
George Malki shares what OKC does that the Toros must stop:
“OKC is a very direct team that is extremely good in the air. They have some big boys that move well. We need to limit fouls in our defensive half and continue to dominate the ball throughout the match. It's definitely going to be a good first round test.”
Charlie Ward explains how RGVFC can win the USL Cup:
"We need to play our game and believe in what we do. We have proved to everyone now what a team we are, and we are here to win the league. We believe in each other and we believe in what the staff are telling us to do. We want to go all the way and make history for ourselves and the club.”
The Good Guys: #2 seed RGVFC Toros (14-7-9)
Saturday’s win over their rival was exactly the boost RGVFC needed heading into their first postseason. They played well in every facet of the game, and eliminated San Antonio from playoff contention. While they started with the seldom used Casner-Catic-Murphy trio up top, it was when that lineup was replaced that the game opened up. Insert Memo-Luna-Arboleda. While these three may not equal the size of the starters, they play with a bit better pace, and are a bit more creative. We will see how Wilmer Cabrera lines up the Toros in their playoff opener.
He has two strong goalkeepers in Devin Perales and Callum Irving. Perales has been the starter in the last three matches, only allowing one goal and making timely saves. Irving was the first choice keeper most of the season, especially during the unscored upon run in the summer. You can’t go wrong with either. The back four, assuming Kevin Garcia is allowed to play down by Houston, will almost surely be: Garcia, Ivan Magalhaes, Taylor Hunter, and either Kai Greene, or George Malki, whose recovering from a quad injury. Eric Bird or Jorginho James will play the more defensive mid, while Charlie Ward will be in his usual conductor role in the middle, likely behind Emilio Garcia. The top three is where Wilmer can make the tweaks to fit a certain style. Up top it will be either Dzenan Catic or Ruben Luna. On the flanks, he can mix and match TJ Casner, Kyle Murphy, Memo Rodriguez, and possibly a Dynamo loanee like Yair Arboleda or Rob Lovejoy.
As usual, the Toros best defense, and offense for that matter, is their possession. They can keep the ball for long periods of time, forcing OKC to run back and forth chasing the ball. They will need to add the timely scoring they’ve had much of the year, and continue their solid play in the back. Expect the Toros fans to be loud and proud in their first playoff action as well.
The Bad Guys: #7 seed OKC Energy FC (10-7-13)
OKC Energy does not score a lot of goals, but they have a lot of players that have scored this year. Thirteen in total. They are a big, physical side that when they have the ball, they like to play it very direct. On the other end of the equation, they have an elite goalkeeper in Cody Laurendi. He recently earned a callup to the Puerto Rican national team for October qualifiers. OKC has not beaten the Toros, with two of the three meetings ending in 0-0 draws. The third match, the first meeting, was a 3-0 win for RGVFC at home. OKC’s best chance of the upset is to put numbers behind the ball, and then connect on a counter attack to one of their big forwards.
The Dirty Details:
Western Conference Quarterfinals
October 1st at 7:30pm CDT from H-E-B Park Training Complex.
Watch it live HERE.