The Rio Grande Valley FC Toros ended one historic streak but continued another, defeating Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC for the second time in six days Saturday night at Toro Stadium. The 2-1 victory ended the club’s USL-record shutout streak at 760 minutes but extended RGV FC’s unbeaten streak to nine games.
The Toros (11-5-9; 42 points) jumped Colorado Springs (11-8-7; 40 points) to move to second place in the Western Conference standings, two points back of Sacramento Republic FC with a game in hand.
RGV FC fell behind when Josh Suggs scored in the 38th minute, but Ruben Luna converted a penalty kick in each half as the Toros rallied for the home win. Luna has five goals in the last four games, his first four starts for the club.
Suggs delivered Colorado Springs the lead with a well-taken goal seven minutes before halftime, collecting a long forward ball with one touch before smashing a left-footed finish inside the far post for a 1-0 lead. It was the first goal allowed by RGV FC since June 26 against Orange County Blues FC, a span of eight full games and the first 37 minutes on Saturday.
The Toros answered within five minutes as Emilio Garcia lofted a cross into the box and Luna flicked a header into the path of Yair Arboleda. The midfielder, on loan from the Dynamo, raced to win the ball at the left edge of the six-yard box and was tripped up after a dive from goalkeeper Devala Gorrick. Luna converted the penalty as the teams entered halftime tied at one.
“It was important for the team,” RGV FC head coach Wilmer Cabrera told HoustonDynamo.com by phone, of the team’s response after allowing the first goal in nine games. “First, because they scored with their only attack of the first half. We gave up the goal after eight and a half games [without allowing a goal]. Mentally, we needed to see our response after that, and it was good. We continued to play the same way and we equalized before halftime and it was another step for our confidence to deal with different situations during the game.”
Garcia was involved in the creation of the second penalty as well, running onto a quality cross from Memo Rodriguez before being tripped up near the penalty spot for RGV FC’s second penalty kick of the night. Luna buried the subsequent spot kick for a 2-1 lead and the winning goal in the 64th minute.
“Ruben Luna [was a key player for RGV FC] with his personality and his confidence to take responsibility with the penalties,” Cabrera said. “He created chances and battled in front of the two to three center backs. I have known Ruben since he was very young. He likes to score and he has a good resume of scoring goals. He’s gained confidence and we had to be patient with him because he didn’t play for 6-8 months [before he joined RGV FC]. We needed to give him the tools and possibilities for him to score. The players have used him in the best way – he needs to be in the box. His strength is to hold the ball and be inside the box and we need to cross the ball to him inside the box, where he can be in his best environment.”
The Toros enjoyed a two-man advantage by the end of the game after Josh Phillips and Miguel Gonzalez were both sent off after receiving their second yellow cards late in the match.
The shutout streak may have ended for RGV FC, but they still held a conference rival to a single goal and have now outscoring opponents 19-1 during the nine-game undefeated streak, capped by wins in four straight games.
“It was a good game,” Cabrera said. “Tough. They were very physical. It’s the type of game that we need in order to prepare ourselves if we want to be [in a good position] for the playoffs.”
In addition to plaudits for Luna, Cabrera offered praise for Eric Bird and Arboleda.
“Eric Bird replaced Jorginho [in a defensive midfield role] and did a very good job winning balls and tackling and did a very good job sacrificing himself for the team. Jair was very good with his speed when he attacked, going at players three or four times.
“Defensively, the unit made one mistake [on the goal], but then they only allowed one more shot on goal during the [entire] 90 minutes. The whole team defensively, including the back four, has done a good job.”
With five games left in the regular season, the Toros visit the Swope Park Rangers, USL affiliate of Sporting Kansas City, on Saturday at Swope Soccer Village. The Rangers (9-9-6; 33 points) are in ninth place, one point behind San Antonio FC for the final playoff spot in the West. After a 4-1 RGV FC win in South Texas on May 21, the Rangers responded with a 4-0 home victory on June 8, the biggest defeat of the season for the Toros.
“It will be another very tough game for us,” Cabrera said. “They’re a team that is trying to make the playoffs, so every game for them is so important and they beat us last time at home and we didn’t perform well. We have something to prove and we have a big challenge with that team and we would like to go there and perform and get the points that we need. We have five games in front of us and we haven’t clinched a playoff spot mathematically.”
The Toros are near the top of the West, unbeaten in nine, with one goal against during that span, but Cabrera is still asking for more from his team.
“We are happy, we are confident, but we are not comfortable.”
Saturday’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m. CDT and will stream live here.
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (11-5-9; 42 points) vs. Colorado Spring Switchbacks FC (11-8-7; 40 points)
August 27, 2016 – Toro Stadium – Edinburg, Texas
COL: Josh Suggs 2 (unassisted) 38
RGV FC: Ruben Luna 4 (penalty kick) 42
RGV FC: Ruben Luna 5 (penalty kick) 63
Rio Grande Valley FC: Callum Irving; Taylor Hunter, Kevin Garcia ©, Ivan Magalhaes, George Malki; Eric Bird, Charlie Ward; Yair Arboleda* (TJ Casner 75), Emilio Garcia, Memo Rodriguez (Kyle Murphy 88); Ruben Luna (Dzenan Catic 77)
*On loan from Houston Dynamo
*Summary of Dynamo Academy alumni involvement in Saturday’s 0-0 draw:
Memo Rodriguez started the match and played 88 minutes. His cross to Emilio Garcia led to the second penalty kick drawn by RGV FC, which was converted by Ruben Luna for the winning goal. Rodriguez has six goals (tied for team-high) and four assists (second on team) in 25 appearances this season (tied for team-high) for a total of 1,601 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 in Edinburg, Texas that will resemble Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.