Nine’s Not Enough
With the season series split between RGVFC and Swope Park Rangers, both teams dominating the other at home, Saturday’s rubber match was much anticipated. Except this time around, it was more like Sporting KC with a few Swope players. The MLS side sent down nine players to get game action during an off week for the first team. It’s something that’s allowed with the MLS-USL affiliations, but not usually to that extent. The Toros trotted out their usual suspects, and showed no fear of the more experienced Swope lineup.
TJ Casner was a focal point early and often for RGVFC. He sent a bending strike on goal early in the first half, forcing Tim Melia to save it over the bar. On the following corner, Memo Rodriguez’s service found the head of Ruben Luna, who redirected it past Melia for his sixth goal in five games. He now ties Rodriguez and Emilio Garcia for the team lead. Speaking of Garcia, he was exciting all night. Whether it was holding possession in crowded areas, firing a great free kick, or forcing a Swope Park player into a hard foul on him. He antagonzied them all night, also earning a yellow himself.
The 57th minute was a key moment in the match. George Malki took down a Rangers attacker in the box, earning the club a corner. Paulo Nagamura, an MLS veteran, stepped up to take the penalty, but Callum Irving deflected it away, and the defense was able to force the follow up shot to go off the post. In the 67’, RGVFC would double the lead. Casner was able to beat Melia on a shot that likely should have been saved. Eric Bird nearly tripled the lead, but swung and missed on a ball played to him unmarked at the net.
Check out the highlights via Swope Park/Sporting KC below.
Ballin’ Bulls: Last Week’s Top Three Toros
Dynamo Theory’s Man of the Match TJ Casner: Casner was in peak form the whole match at Swope. He forced the keeper into a save, earning the corner resulting in the first goal. He also made plenty of lengthy, skillful runs down the left flank, one which ended in him scoring the other tally in the match.
Ruben Luna: It’s fair to say Luna has been great lately for RGVFC. He scored his sixth goal in five games on a header from a corner kick. He also held up play very well all night, including when he fired a rocket off the post.
Callum Irving: The Great Wall of Canada was incredibly in goal against a very experienced attacking unit. He made a few good plays throughout the match, none bigger than his save on the penalty kick to keep the Rangers scoreless. He leads the USL in Goals Against Average and Save %.
Ivan Magalhaes on what big saves by Callum Irving do for the team:
“It is huge. His PK save was a key moment of the match, and with his save we were able to change the momentum and start having more control of the game.”
Memo Rodriguez on if the club focused on set pieces in preparation for the match:
“Not really, we’ve just being reinforcing every week that we need to attack the ball better, because we have been putting the ball in good areas.”
Callum Irving on if the nine MLS loanees makes the club feel even more respected:
"I think it does in a way. Obviously when we line up on game day the guys aren't focused on who is or isn't playing for the other team. However, looking back on the match, it's nice to know that they respect us enough to believe that the minutes those MLS guys would get against us would be valuable minutes for them."
The Good Guys: Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (12-5-9)
With that win, the Toros proved they are up to any challenge. Beating a team with that many MLS loanees is a huge feather in their cap. Casner’s performance earned him a USL Team of the Week spot, and Irving earned honorable mention. Also in club news this week, captain Kevin Garcia signed with the Houston Dynamo. While he will surely be missed in some matches the rest of the USL season and playoffs if he’s with the first team, he’s still eligible to return on gameday loans. Garcia’s leadership, and calm, collected play on the pitch cannot be overstated. He’s earned the call up to the first team and then some. RGVFC still has the highest ceiling in the Western Conference, and they currently sit only one point behind Sacramento Republic, who they have a game in hand on. The USL also kept the Toros in the #2 spot in the weekly Top 10 Power Rankings.
The Bad Guys: Portland Timbers FC 2 (8-14-4)
Portland Timbers 2 find themselves towards the bottom of the Western Conference. A big part of that was a midseason eight match winless streak. However, they enter this match after a big win, 4-0 over OKC Energy FC. The club’s leading scorers are Villyan Bijev and Neco Brett, and not far behind is youngster Blake Bodily. The eighteen year old has three goals since July. In the only other meeting between the teams, RGVFC took a 2-0 victory in the Pacific Northwest. We will see how the second bottom team in the West handles a trip to South Texas.
The Dirty Details
at H-E-B Park Training Facility
9/10 at 7:30pm CDT
Watch it live HERE.