Rio Grande Valley FC embarked on its first foray into the home fort of Toyota field Saturday night, in what would be the first of several matches between these South Texas clubs. SAFC, coming off the big win vs Tulsa last week, faced a more energetic side in RGVFC, and would have to build off the progress from the previous week to put another win in the column.
The offense appeared to pick up where it left off last week, setting an aggressive tone, and not shying away from taking early shots on goal. An early corner in the 9th for RGV, however, presented an opportunity for their side, but was broken up by midfielder and acting captain Rafa Castillo. Soon after, midfielder Victor Aroujo won a takeaway in the 12th, got it to Chin, who had a one on one with RGV keeper Perales, but the keeper came out and quashed the attempt.
Cochrane looked sharp again on the back line, as did all SA defenders in that part of the field and seems to be increasingly dangerous with each passing game, getting it to Chin on one occasion, and though it did not result in a goal, was a beautiful piece of work. Cardone was tested shortly there after, in the 19th, by RGV forward Jose Rodriguez, who got off a powerful hit, but the keeper looked solid and confident on the save. Right after, a relay from Alvarez to Chin to Cochrane in looked positively brilliant, but keeper Perales rose to the challenge.
On defense, the club looked more active, forwards and midfielders looking for the takeaways, and showing a level of hustle RGV could not keep up with. Cardone was tested again in the 28th when a shot from Rodriguez in traffic was on frame, but the keeper was there. Defenders Biko Bradnock-Brennan and Stephen McCarthy continued to look for outlets on the outside that gave RGV fits, while Cochrane and Johnson were able to make their way into enemy territory with little challenge on several occasions in this first half.
When Rafa was fouled in the 35th, he took the free kick from about 40 yards, looped into McCarthy who headed it out to Chin who got a shot off, but couldn’t find the net. Another attack consisted of Rafa to Moseley to Chin in the 39th, and was a crisp-looking exchange, but Perales was on the spot yet again. It was good, however to see the passes connecting and attacks unfold in a timely manner and with such intent.
In the 45th McCarthy got off a beautiful lob into Cochrane open on the far side, but after losing the ball in a physical exchange, the defender was a little too enthusiastic on a reciprocating challenge and drew the yellow card. The match had been increasingly physical up to this point and at the half Jason Johnson was laid out on the ground, but thankfully the attacking midfielder made his way to his feet and into the locker room.
The second half opened with a scary moment, when Cardone rolled the ball across the field to Brennan, who could not clear and resulted in a golden opportunity for RGV, but the keeper managed to regain himself and be there for the save. RGV had more chances with three corners early in the half that were handled deftly by SAFC backs who continued to excel in situations such as these.
On a free kick after another foul on RGV midfielder Casner, the ball was placed precariously in the box, but an on-time Thuriere was there to clear. Play continued on intensely, especially in the center part of the pitch, the site of many, many, fouls and strong challenges, indicating no love loss between these two sides. The San Antonio back line was not to be outdone, though, as McCarthy stonewalled what was a potentially promising RGV attack, taking the ball in the process and getting it ahead to Johnson who appeared to be fouled in the penalty box, but resulted in a no-call by the ref instead.
Disaster unfolded in the following minutes when in the 69th minute a cross from RGV midfielder Casner found a wide open Roy Lovejoy in stride who was able to put it in the corner of the net just past the diving Cardone. Minutes later, Palacios, on an attempt to clear, was taken down, the ball rolling to the feet of RGV forward Rodriguez who had an easy shot as Cardone was caught off guard, bringing the score to 2-0 RGV.
The play of Greg Cochrane paid dividends in the 79th minute when he maintained possession off an SAFC throwin, found Sanchez in space, who was then able to power the ball past Perales to bring score to 2-1 RGV. Two minutes later, more Cochrane hustle resulted in a Rafa corner that bounced around the box, was defended by Perales, and ultimately came off the foot of an RGV player, giving our club yet another corner. This gave way to another corner that found Chin in the middle of the 6, at point-blank range, where he was able to score the equalizer in the 83rd.
The match continued to be heated, McCarthy coming to the defense of Cochrane who looked to have gotten kicked in the side by Casner, who got the yellow, as both sides came together in the middle of the pitch in a bit of a scuffle.
As regulation came to an end, during the first minute of stoppage, an RGV corner went into the box, but a foul was called, giving SAFC possession and an opportunity to get the ball out of their half and mount an attack for the win. But, just as things were looking to go our way, an errant pass in the midfield gave RGV an opportunity for an attack with numbers and midfielder Lovejoy was able to get the ball past Cardone for the second time tonight, and secure the win for his club in the process.
SAFC (2-3-2) travel to Taft Stadium to take on OKC Energy FC (1-1-3) on May 15, looking to continue the recent strides made on offense, and find a way to be more consistent while on their side of the pitch.