San Antonio FC went down to Edinburg last night and defeated Rio Grande Valley FC Toros 1-0 for the first time in the short history of both teams. The Toros probably feel hard done by since they had multiple opportunities to level the game, but their feverish finish was too little too late. This match also served as the USL opening night for the beautiful $34 million 9,700 soccer-specific stadium (H-E-B Park) built for the Toros.
Former San Antonio Scorpion, Billy Forbes, who returned to San Antonio this year after his previous club in Oklahoma City folded, scored the only goal in the 15th minute. Cesar Elizando took advantage of poor defending by Houston Dynamo loaned defender Taylor Hunter and provided a nice cross to Forbes, who hit an outstanding first-touch shot that just beat the Toro’s goalkeeper at the far post. RGVFC midfielder Kyle Murphy had the two best opportunities to tie the game, but it wasn’t his night. Midway through the first half, Ruben Luna took advantage of a giveaway from SAFC defender Cyprian Hedrick (who appeared to be injured and left the game shortly thereafter) and crossed to a wide open Murphy, who shockingly bungled the opportunity. In the most dangerous Toros opportunity of the second half, Murphy side-volleyed a blast that hit the near post. RGVFC had the majority of the possession in the second half, but full credit must be given to SAFC, and goalie Matt Cardone, who tightened up the lines and used some emergency scrambling to hold off the Toros pressure. SAFC may have gotten a little lucky late in the game when RGVFC was denied a potential penalty as SAFC goalkeeper Cardone took down Toro forward Ruben Luna in the penalty area.
A strong 20+ mile an hour wind created havoc with the play throughout the evening and the players never seemed to completely adapt to it. San Antonio took advantage of the wind behind their backs to control much of the play in the first half, though the Forbes goal had nothing to do with the weather. The Toros out-shot SAFC 11-2 and had 61% of the possession, though a lot of this came in the second half when SAFC retreated and switched to a counterattack formation.
SAFC defender Sebastian Ibeagha was named Man of the Match by USLSoccer.com. He was all over the field and recorded 10 clearances to lead San Antonio’s stalwart defensive effort. Prior to being released after last season, Ibeagha was on the Houston Dynamo roster for two years and had played a handful of games for RGVFC in 2016. He must have experienced a bit of sweet revenge as his performance was viewed by Houston Dynamo General Manager Matt Jordan, who was in attendance at the match.
The Dynamo loaned four players to RGVFC and all of them started. Goalkeeper Calle Brown, defenders Taylor Hunter and Kevin Garcia and midfielder Jose Escalante. None of these four have played a minute of MLS action this year
The new stadium is as good as advertised. Will Parchman of Top Drawer Soccer called it the best lower division stadium in the country in his 90th Minute column last week. After attending last nights game in Edinburg, if there is a better one than H-E-B Park, I would be surprised. I hear people ask when soccer is going to “make-it” or “arrive” in the United States. I personally believe the answer to this question is hiding in plain sight if we just look for it. Maybe establishing a team for the first time in a soccer hotbed like the Valley last year and then building a palace like this for them to play in is one more indication that this sport has actually arrived. One comment I heard last night was that the new facility smelled of permanence. In a league with a history of teams coming and going (Austin being exhibit one), this is not small statement. The stadium was finished a year late, after delays due to weather and redesign decisions as it was being built. It was worth the wait, however, and I will share some pictures I took at the game last night in a post later this week.
SAFC will have their home opener this Saturday, as they take on LA Galaxy II, who also won their season opener. RGVFC travel to Tulsa to take on the Roughnecks, also on Saturday night.