Rio Grande Valley FC was back at Toyota Field tonight for the second installment of this quickly developing South Texas rivalry, and the second match between the two clubs in just two and a half weeks. SAFC, fresh off a 1-0 loss to OKC on Saturday night, were looking to find three points at the end of this match and pick up where they left off three and a half weeks ago when they beat Tulsa 3-1.
The effort would get off to a inauspicious beginning, however, when in the 4th minute there was a miscommunication between defender Biko Bradnock-Brennan and captain and keeper Josh Ford. Loyal fans have become accustomed to miscues on this side of the pitch, especially when defenders attempt to get the ball to Ford, and tonight it was Brennan who didn’t quite get enough on his pass to the keeper and let it get picked off by RGV forward Jose Escalante. Escalante had an uncontested shot on an open goal, as Ford had come off to try to regain possession, but the forward managed to miss wide right.
The San Antonio side recovered quickly, though, and began put together a half highlighted by spirited play in middle, stingy defense, and outstanding play from Josh Ford.
Sam McBride started it all off with a timely defense of an RGV opportunity, preventing the score from right on the line. Defender Milton Palacios also had himself a match, consistently made deep runs flanking the RGV wings, and one such occasion was found by forward Shawn Chin, resulting in a corner. Rafa Castillo did the honors and sent it into the box right at head level, skimming the tops of several craniums before sailing out again and giving San Antonio another chance at a corner, this time with little result.
After a bit of chippiness in the 10th, Rafa got things back on track, finding Alvarez in traffic at the top of the box, who then got a gorgeous through ball into Palacios who was open and had the keeper isolated, but to the dismay of the crowd was stopped by an offsides call. Not long after, SAFC had possession again, Bobby Moselely getting the charge started this time, passed to Rafa who quickly found Miguel Salazar. Salazar made some room and got it to Alvarez, again in the top-middle, who found a streaking Palacios on the near sideline, and although this might have been the best ball movement of this young season, the finish could not be made.
Josh Ford would ensure that RGV not pull ahead before the end of the first half, a half that saw no less than four saves made by the SAFC captain. The first came in the 16th min, when a hard charging TJ Casner closed in on the goal, but was met before he could figure out what to do with the ball. Minutes later, Casner was at it again, this time with a free kick. He got it over San Antonio defenders and tried to squeeze just under the cross-bar, but our keeper made it look easy and brushed it away safely. Then after Salazar lost the ball, Escalante shot hard and quick, but couldn’t get it past Ford. And lastly, after Escalante was isolated on Moseley, he got off a scorcher toward the SAFC goal, but the keeper was there yet again, diving to his right to calm the nerves of the crowd.
Before the half would end, one last San Antonio corner would find McBride, who’d played outstanding physical defense all night, but his header, while on frame, was met by the keeper Brown to keep the match scoreless.
Coach Darren Powell decided to shake things up a bit in the second half bringing on newcomer forward Jacques Francois, attacking midfielder Victor Araujo, and defender Greg Cochran for Salazar, Alvarez and Chin. It was a shrewd strategy, bring on two of the most dangerous players on the team in Francois and Araujo and a deceptively creative defender in Cochrane, and let their fresh legs and aggression overpower RGV to start the second half.
Within the first two minutes of the half Francois and forward Jason Johnson found themselves in a 2 v 3 situation with Johnson taking a hard shot that bounced far off the keeper, but Francois could not make it the ball for the putback. Araujo continued his impressive play, extending possessions and coming up with takeaways, while Francois electrified the crowd with a 25 yard sprint to run down RGV defender Kai Greene and win the ball deep in RGV territory. The effort could not be converted however, when Rafa was knocked to the ground by defender Jorginho James, who unbelivably was not called for the foul.
The chances were plentiful for our club in the second half, but to no avail. Moseley, who looked good the entire match, got a cross into the box at one point, intended for Araujo, but the midfielder could not connect the header attempt. Minutes later it was Rafa ahead to Johnson, who slipped in the box and got a shot off, but Brown was there for the save.
That is when the frustration began to set in. The nearly four weeks without a win, the physical play of the RGV players (who also rely on flopping more than they should), and the refs that were consistently inconsistent (as they were the first match vs our neighbors to the South). It all boiled over into an exhausting bout of yellow cards and missed opportunities.
First it was RGV midfielder Charlie Ward with a yellow for a cleats-up tackle. That led our own Greg Cochrane to return the favor, which was also rewarded with a yellow. And last but not least, it was Brennan with a takedown of forward Kyle Murphy that earned the final yellow and all but meant the end of the match.
Still, San Antonio didn’t finish without putting together even more chances. In the 80th minute a free kick by Rafa looked very promising, but dropped right in the hands of the keeper Brown. Almost immediately after it was Francois to Moseley, Mosley to Reed, and Reed to Araujo for still more excellent ball movement, but Aroujo was knocked to the ground in what was another horrible no-call by the ref. The last opportunity of the night was midfielder Danny Garcia (who had come in for JJ in the 71st) finding Moseley outside, who then lined a shot over defenders and right in front of the keeper’s outside foot, but a sprinting Garcia could not close in fast enough for the tip in.
Game: SAFC 0 – 0 RGVFC.
The boys in white will travel to the valley Saturday, June 4th to renew the battle for South Texas once again at UTRGV Soccer Complex in Edinburg. Match starts at 7:30pm CT. A road win could make all the difference in the season, so let’s show RGV how well we travel and support our club as they take the fight to the southern part of the state.