The Rio Grande Valley FC Toros ensured their defensive shutout streak and high-scoring capabilities were more than a product of home field advantage Thursday night, scoring five goals after halftime for a 5-0 win over Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field.
The Toros kept their seventh-consecutive clean sheet, came one-goal shy of matching their 6-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC 2 last Saturday and now boast the best goal difference (+16) in the USL’s Western Conference. Most significantly, RGV FC (9-5-9; 36 points) moved into a tie for fourth in the West and trail three teams by one point for first place in the conference.
“The players were very focused and energetic from the beginning,” RGV FC head coach Wilmer Cabrera told HoustonDynamo.com by phone. “They showed a great desire to win. From the kickoff, we imposed our will on the game, with Rob Lovejoy and Yair Arboleda leading the attack, and Kevin Garcia supplying the ball from the back.”
RGV FC came out flying in the first half, with Dynamo loanees Rob Lovejoy and Yair Arboleda wreaking havoc on the flanks. Lovejoy twice forced Tulsa goalkeeper Alex Mangels into action late in the first half, but the Toros could not break through. But the pressure Lovejoy, Arboleda and company applied in the first half surely helped the Toros break through in the second interval.
“Rob was very good. I’ve been telling Rob and Yair, they’ve been doing the tough job and they open the door for the subs to come on and score goals,” Cabrera said. “They created a lot of attacking options, and suddenly, the goal was going to come.”
After scoring four goals in first and second half stoppage-time in Saturday’s 6-0 win over Seattle, the Toros tallied five goals in a 34-minute span on Thursday, starting with a penalty kick goal from Emilio Garcia in the 52nd minute after Ruben Luna was taken down in the box by Mangels. It was Garcia’s third goal in two games and sixth of the season, tied for the team lead with Memo Rodriguez.
Luna (pictured above) doubled the lead seven minutes later, his second goal in as many games, meeting a wonderful cross from Lovejoy at the back post and finishing his second chance from three yards after Mangels stopped his first attempt.
Rodriguez nearly scored his seventh goal of the season, volleying a low shot from 12 yards after Mangels punched the ball away, but a Tulsa defender cleared the shot off the line. The rebound fell to Dzenan Catic, who finished from eight yards for a 3-0 lead.
The best goal of the night came from Eric Bird, who ran to his right and underneath a looping clearance and volleyed a low strike from 20 yards into the bottom left corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season and a 4-0 advantage.
Catic scored his second of the night, and fourth of the season, pressuring a header from a Tulsa defender that went over Mangels’ head and recovering the ball first to finish into an empty net for his fourth goal of the season. Catic has three goals in the last two games after he missed three months due to a concussion.
“We needed to find the momentum,” Cabrera said. “Right now, everyone is confident, working hard. We needed to change our luck and we did it. Now everything is moving our way and we have to take advantage. Now we have opened the net, which is very rewarding.”
Dynamo goalkeeper Calle Brown made five saves to record his fifth shutout in seven starts on loan with RGV FC. The Toros last conceded a goal on June 26 and now have 12 shutouts in 23 games this season.
“Defensively we are playing very well,” Cabrera said. “I think the players are proud of themselves because we don’t concede goals and don’t allow too many options for the opponent.”
Cabrera has stressed a desire to use the same style of play home and away from the very start of the season in March. The Toros are now 4-3-4 away from home this season and play a crucial game at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Sunday.
“We just have the objective to play the same style at home or away, and we don’t see a difference in playing home and away. We have our style of play and that’s something that we are proud of. It has given us confidence to know we won’t change the way we play.”
Colorado Springs has allowed just 18 goals in 23 games this season, tied for the second-fewest in the USL. After Sunday’s meeting in Colorado, the teams meet again next Saturday at Toro Stadium.
“It’s going to be a beautiful game,” Cabrera said. “We haven’t played them all season. They have an unbelievable record at home and they’ve played very well. Then next weekend they come to South Texas, so t’s going to feel like a Champions League series where we play them home and away. It’s going to test the two teams and the players. This is a team that is very strong defensively and they have some good speed and have good transition from defense to attack. We have to play a very good game if we want to get a result.”
Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric and midfielder Jose Escalante will join RGV FC for Sunday’s game at Colorado Springs. Sunday’s match will begin at 2:30 p.m. CDT and will stream live here.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC (5-15-3; 18 points) vs. Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (9-5-9; 36 points)
August 18, 2016 – ONEOK Field – Tulsa, Oklahoma
RGV FC: Emilio Garcia 6 (penalty kick) 52
RGV FC: Ruben Luna 2 (unassisted) 59
RGV FC: Dzenan Catic 3 (unassisted) 77
RGV FC: Eric Bird 5 (unassisted) 82
RGV FC: Dzenan Catic 4(unassisted) 86
Rio Grande Valley FC: Calle Brown*; Taylor Hunter, Kevin Garcia ©, Ivan Magalhaes, George Malki; Jorginho James (Kyle Murphy 85), Charlie Ward; Yair Arboleda* (Memo Rodriguez 72), Emilio Garcia (Eric Bird 65), Rob Lovejoy* (TJ Casner 72); Ruben Luna (Dzenan Catic 73)
*On loan from Houston Dynamo
*Summary of Dynamo Academy alumni involvement in Saturday’s 0-0 draw:
Memo Rodriguez entered the game for the final 18 minutes. The 20-year-old has six goals (tied for team-high) and four assists (second on team) in 23 appearances this season (1,488 total minutes).
*Note: The Dynamo and RGV FC have a hybrid affiliation, with the Dynamo in control of all technical aspects of the soccer operation, including the construction of the roster and the coaching staff. Meanwhile, the McAllen, Texas based Rio Grande Valley Vipers run the business operations, including the current construction of a 9,400 seat soccer stadium that will resemble Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.