Image: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
San Antonio FC defeated the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros 1-0 Sunday night at HEB Park in Edinburg, Texas, in the first game of the season for both teams.
The first real chance of the match fell to SAFC in the ninth minute as a ball was headed upfield and took a few bounces before forward Cesar Elizondo attempted to touch it past RGVFC goalkeeper Calle Brown and into the net. Elizondo couldn’t get that crucial touch though and simply collided with Brown.
SAFC would open the scoring six minutes later though, sparked by defender Greg Cochrane’s long ball up the left flank. Elizondo latched onto it, dribbled inside and found space to pass the ball to midfielder Billy Forbes, who struck the ball first-time past Brown. This marked the first time in history SAFC held a lead over their Texas rival.
A dangerous chance came RGVFC’s way 15 minutes later as forwards Ruben Luna and Kyle Murphy pressured SAFC defender Cyprian Hedrick into losing possession. Luna took possession as Murphy moved toward the opposite side of the goal, but when the ball was squared to Murphy he embarrassingly put the ball wide of the net, missing perhaps RGVFC’s best chance of the match.
In the 36th minute, the previous incident and another knock or two caught up with Hedrick as he was forced to come off with an injury. Defender Stephen McCarthy took his place for the remainder of the match.
The second half was more open and RGVFC increased their pressure on SAFC’s defense as time wore on. Their first proper chance of the half came in the 53rd minute as SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone attempted to clear the ball but sent it straight to RGVFC midfielder Eric Bird. Though Bird advanced and found an opening to shoot, Cardone managed to block the shot and grab the ball, snuffing out Bird’s chance.
Five minutes later, RGVFC had multiple chances to score just in front of goal but were unable to convert. A Cardone save and shot by Murphy off the crossbar allowed SAFC to maintain their precarious lead.
RGVFC could have had a penalty kick in the 72nd minute thanks to a dangerous through ball by Bird. After Luna latched onto it, he nudged it forward and it was unclear if Cardone touched the ball or not and potentially brought the attacker down illegally. However, the referee chose to award only a corner kick, which yielded nothing.
SAFC’s defense continued to feel the pressure for the rest of the match, even defending a corner kick in the dying moments. However, RGVFC couldn’t find an equalizer and San Antonio hung on for their first ever win against their Texas rival. SAFC snatched only a point and was outscored 7-2 in four matchups against RGVFC in 2016 (not to mention a 4-0 loss to RGVFC’s MLS affiliate, the Houston Dynamo, in the US Open Cup).
Sunday’s match was also the first competitive fixture played at HEB Park, RGVFC’s newly built soccer-specific stadium. Initially scheduled to open just over a month into the 2016 season, construction delays kept pushing its debut back. RGVFC fell to Mexican club C.F. Monterrey 3-0 in a friendly Wednesday night, the first game in the new stadium.
SAFC next plays on Saturday in their home opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy II at Toyota Field. The match will be held the same weekend of the USL Experience, which is a collaboration between the league and the Super Y League to give some of the country’s best youth players the experience of professional-style training and competition.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Matt Cardone; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Cyprian Hedrick (Stephen McCarthy 36’), Greg Cochrane; Pecka; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Kris Tyrpak 80’), Michael Reed(c) (Maxi Rodriguez 63’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Cesar Elizondo
Substitutes not used: Restrepo, Vega, Chin, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Maxi Rodriguez (yellow card, 90′ – first of the season)