50 years ago-The First Professional Soccer League Season in Houston Ends

Image result for Houston Stars soccerLogo accessed from Wikipedia

Fifty years ago this month, the first and only season (tournament) of the United Soccer Association (USA) came to an end.  The USA was the first professional soccer league in North America that included Texas teams: Dallas Tornado and Houston Stars.

The league was one of two professional soccer leagues formed in the United States in 1967 on the heels of a positive reception to televised games from the 1966 FIFA World Cup held the previous summer in England.  Because the USA was forced to start up earlier than intended because of the rival NPSL, the owners imported foreign teams to represent their cities, in our case Dundee United from Scotland for Dallas and Bangu from Brazil for Houston.

The finish of the first US professional soccer season with Texas teams

All 12 teams in the league played 12 rounds in the tournament.  The two Division winners, Washington Whips and Los Angeles Wolves, played in the President’s Cup Championship game in Los Angeles on July 14th.  Both teams flew across the country from Washington for this game, because the league had ordered a replay of a match played by the two sides in D.C. three weeks earlier on the weekend before the Championship. The reason for the replay was because league rules allowed 3 substitutes, one of which had to be a goalkeeper.  Los Angeles had substituted 3 field players in violation of these rules during the original game.  The Wolves lost the replay after the initial disputed match had been a 1-1 tie, but still won the Western Division.

The championship game was billed as The Greatest Soccer Final Played on American Soil in the book Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson, a full-season account of the United Soccer Association. Arguably, he may be right as the LA Wolves won a pulsating 6-5 game and thus became the inaugural (and only) USA Champion.

Close to 18,000 fans turned up at the LA Memorial Coliseum to watch the Championship match, more than twice the season average for Wolves game in the tournament.  Both sides didn’t much like each other and issues from the previous hotly contested games produced battles that started within minutes of the start of the game.  The teams traded goals all evening and 6 lead changes later, the LA Wolves won the match in extra-time on a deflected own-goal off of Whips defender Ally Shewan.  At least Shewan was able to have a sense of humor when interviewed after the game, saying in the book The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America by Dennis J. Seese, “That’s my only claim to fame.  I scored the golden goal.  For the wrong side”. Shewan also can be given a pass because early in the game he had been knocked out, bloodied his nose and also broke two fingers on a collision with a Wolves forward.  It is truly remarkable that Washington was able to come back so frequently because they had been reduced to 10 men 32 minutes in the game.

Houston Stars (Bangu-Brazil)

1967 Houston Stars team photo: Wikipedia

Image result for Houston Stars soccer

Houston Stars 1967-68 Home and Away Jerseys:

Sourced from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos.Net

Houston Stars (1967 - 1968)Houston Stars (1967 - 1968)

The Houston Stars were characterized as the most technically gifted team in the tournament. In The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America, Sunderland and Vancouver’s John O’Hare was quoted as raving about Bangu and the Stars “their skill level was superb” and gave them a “proper football lesson” after Houston beat them 4-1 in Round 7.  The Stars were led by Paulo Borges, who some at the time considered the second or third best player in the world after Pele and Portugal’s 1966 World Cup hero Eusebio. Houston also had two other Brazilian internationals on their roster, World Cup veteran centerback Mario Tito and Cabralzinho.  This talent came with responsibilities for their country though and the Stars lost Paulo Borges to a series of matches Brazil played against Uruguay midway through the tournament. Borges missed 4 Houston matches (3 of which Houston lost). An argument certainly can be made that Houston did not make the Championship game because of his absence.  The biggest blow to the Stars hopes came in Round 11 when, still missing Borges, the team shockingly lost 3-1 on a rain soaked and muddy field to Boston, who had not won a game to that point. Even the return of Borges was not enough to help the Stars the next week as a 1-0 loss at the Astrodome to Washington effectively ended its season.

Bangu 1966: From left to right-Paulo Borges, Cabralzinho, Norberto, Jair, Aladim

Sourced from NASL Jerseys.com-1467-992-Wikipedia

The major excitement in the Stars season came in Detroit during Round 6 of the tournament. The Stars had taken a 2-0 lead on the Detroit Cougars (Glentoran from Ireland).  The clashing styles of a technical and crafty Brazilian side vs. a hard working Irish side finally came to a head in the 73rd minute after a high boot to the head from a Houston player led to a head butt from a Detroit player.  Flying kicks, corner flags used as weapons, staff from both teams leaving the sidelines to join the ruckus and fans coming onto the field to chase Houston players around then ensued.  It took 10 minutes for the police to restore order and the match was abandoned with the Stars credited with a 2-0 victory, despite vigorous protests from the Cougars.

There was one other amusing story that highlights the amateur level of organization in the USA that year.  When Houston played Cleveland later in the tournament in the Astrodome, the game ended with no explanation with more than 5 minutes remaining on the stadium game clock. Apparently, the clock official, who didn’t know any better had been stopping the clock when the ball left the field of play.  Houston ended up winning 2-1 that game despite vehement Cleveland protests.

The Stars ended the season in fourth place (4-4-4).  The team also had the highest average attendance in the USA at 19,082.  It was hard to sort out how much of the good attendance, however, was due to the soccer games and how much should be credited to the newness of the Astrodome at that time.

Final USA Western Division Season Standings:  (original club-city)  (2 points=win, 1 point=draw)

Los Angeles (Wolves-ENG)                 5-2-5     15 points

San Francisco (Den Haag-NDL)         5-4-3     13 points

Chicago (Cagliari-ITL)                          3-2-7     13 points

Houston (Bangu-BRZ)                          4-4-4     12 points

Vancouver (Sunderland-ENG)           3-4-5     11 points

Dallas (Dundee Utd.-SCO)                    3-6-3       9 points

1967 Houston Stars Leading Goal Scorers:

Paulo Borges-6, Aladim Luciano-4, Fernando Puglia-4

Houston Stars 1967-1968 Rosters and Statistics (NASL Jerseys)

http://www.nasljerseys.com/Rosters/StarsHou_Rosters.htm

For historical purposes, an argument can also be made that forward Paulo Borges is the best player ever to play soccer for a Texas professional soccer team (a case certainly can be made too for legendary England international Bobby Moore who played for the NASL’s San Antonio Thunder in 1976).  He scored 105 goals for Bangu in the Brazilian league.  At that time Brazilian players did not go to Europe at a young age like happens routinely today. Brazil was recognized as having one of the best, if not the best, soccer leagues in the world at that time.  Pele, for example, who was in the prime of his career in 1967 never played in any European league.  Borges ended up leaving Bangu a few years after this tournament, as did many of the Bangu stars, to chase more lucrative money at bigger Brazilian clubs. Bangu never became the club it was in the 1960’s again and now plays in the fourth division of Brazilian soccer.

In any event, after the two start-up leagues merged to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) in late 1967, the Stars joined the new league for a single season, finishing second in the Gulf Division of the Western Conference, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs. After that season, Houston was one of the many NASL franchises that folded and no professional soccer was played again in Houston until the Houston Hurricanes joined the NASL for the 1978 season.

Houston Stars 1968 Team Photo:

Sourced from NASL Jerseys.com-Wikipedia

Image result for Houston Stars soccer

Regardless of their short existence, the Houston Stars remain the genesis of the current professional soccer landscape in Houston, now represented by Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash.

Details on the formation of the league and the Houston Stars can be found in my first post in this series:

https://txsoccerjournal.com/2017/06/13/50-years-ago-professional-soccer-is-introduced-to-texas/

Further information on the formation of the Dallas Tornado and the first two professional Texas Derbies can be found in the second post in the series:

https://txsoccerjournal.com/2017/06/19/50-years-ago-first-two-texas-derby-matches/

I am indebted to two excellent books that provided the majority of information presented in this post.  I highly recommend anybody interested in further information seek these books out:

Summer of ’67 by Ian Thomson:

The Rebirth of Professional Soccer in America-Dennis J. Seese

Texas Professional Soccer Weekly Preview

PREVIEWS FOR MLS WEEK 21 and USL WEEK 19:

Major League Soccer (MLS):

Houston Dynamo (9-7-5-32 points-3rd place) vs. Portland Timbers (8-8-6-30-points-4th place)-BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston-7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 29, 2017.

Match Preview from mlssoccer.com:

  • Portland has never won in Houston
  • AJ DeLaGarza’s comments after road win in DC last Saturday:

“We didn’t come into the season wanting to win one road game,” DeLaGarza said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have [six] more road games. We have to continue to get points, and if we don’t win this weekend then what really did that win at D.C. do for us?”

  • New playmaker Tomas Martinez, a classic Argentine No. 10 who officially joined up with the club on July 17, will not play this weekend as he gets acclimated to Houston and the club.

https://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2017-07-29-houston-dynamo-vs-portland-timbers/preview

Preview article from the Oregonian including press conference with Timbers head coach Caleb Porter:

http://www.oregonlive.com/timbers/index.ssf/2017/07/portland_timbers_looking_for_a.html

FC Dallas (9-3-7-34 points-1st place) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8-8-3-27 points-6th place)-Toyota Park, Frisco-7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 29, 2017

Match Preview from mlssoccer.com:

  • The teams have evenly split their last six MLS games, dating back to the beginning of the 2015 season (2-2-2).  Dallas has won both of their home games by a 2-0 scoreline during this six-game stretch
  • Head coach Oscar Pareja commenting on Christian Colman finally breaking through with 2 goals in Montreal last Saturday:

“It’s important for Cristian to score, we have been waiting for this moment,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said after the match that night. “As a kid, he worked hard. He has been trying to adapt to the league, trying to adapt to the culture of the group, and all what he has done is just kept working. And today the game rewarded him and I’m very happy for him.”

  • FC Dallas get international players back, but will need to play with a makeshift back line again as outside backs Maynor Figueroa and Hernan Grana are suspended for yellow-card accumulation

https://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2017-07-29-fc-dallas-vs-vancouver-whitecaps-fc/preview

Canadian National post article on Whitecaps Yordy Reyna:

FC Dallas will need to account for Peruvian midfielder and difference maker Yordy Reyna who may make his first start this season after returning from a broken foot injury suffered in the preseason:

http://nationalpost.com/g00/sports/soccer/mls/vancouver-whitecaps/whitecaps-reyna-looking-to-turn-the-page/wcm/c92fa34b-b1aa-42e7-8b97-48e5ce46f918?i10c.referrer=

United Soccer League (USL):

Phoenix Rising (6-6-4-22 points-11th place) vs. San Antonio FC (10-1-7-37 points-3rd place)- Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Scottsdale, AZ-10:00 p.m. C.D.T.

  • This will be the first time San Antonio FC faces legendary forward Didier Drogba
  • Just over the halfway mark of the 2017 campaign, San Antonio FC matched its points total from last year in just 17 matches this season. The club’s 10-1-6 record 17 matches into the season added up to 36 points, which was the same amount that the team reached after their 30 matches in 2016

USL Stat-Pack on uslsoccer.com

http://www.uslsoccer.com/news_article/show/818114?referrer_id=2349190

Match Preview on the Phoenix Rising Website:

http://www.phxrisingfc.com/news_article/show/818202?referrer_id=2717359

Portland Timbers 2 (T2) (1-15-3-6 points-last place) vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (RGV FC) (6-9-3-21 points-12th place)-Providence Park, Portland, OR-10:00 p.m. C.D.T.

  • Rio Grande Valley FC starts a 3 game Pacific Northwest trip in Portland
  • The Toros are 2-5-1 on the road this season and have been outscored 18-6

Match Preview on Portland T2 website:

https://www.timbers.com/post/2017/07/27/usl-match-preview-stream-t2-host-rio-grande-valley-fc-toros-providence-park-saturday

Former Dynamo, SA Scorpions forward Omar Cummings retires

Omar Cummings who played 2 seasons with the Houston Dynamo and a season with the San Antonio Scorpions announced his retirement yesterday from FC Cincinnati where he has been playing for the last couple of years.

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/soccer/fc-cincinnati/2017/07/23/omar-cummings-announces-retirement-soccer/503465001/

The Jamaican international Cummings made his MLS mark with the Colorado Rapids when he was a vital piece of the Colorado Rapids roster that defeated FC Dallas 2-1 in Added Extra Time in the 2010 MLS Cup. Cummings scored a career high 14 goals, tied for 4th in the league that year, in that Cup winning season.

His place in Texas soccer history was secured though during the 2013 MLS Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Houston Dynamo.  Cummings, who came to the Dynamo with great expectations, experienced a miserable regular season fraught with knee injuries and did not score a goal.  In the playoff series with the New York Red Bulls, however, he earned every penny of his salary for the season.  In the first leg of the series with NYRB on November 3 the Dynamo fell behind 2-0 on goals from Tim Cahill and current Dynamo midfielder Eric Alexander.  This did not come as a complete surprise to the resigned fans, because the Red Bulls had beaten Houston three times during the regular season.  Ricardo Clark pulled back a goal for the Dynamo midway early in the second half on a long range shot from the top of the penalty area.  Cummings then entered the match in the 61st minute and shortly after was chopped down by NYRB defender Jamison Olave who was issued a straight red card leaving NYRB a man down and without their best defender.  Cummings then produced some magic in added extra-time and tapped in his first goal of the season to pull the Dynamo even in the series heading back to NY.

Three days later the two teams met at Red Bull Arena for the second leg of the series. After the teams traded goals in the first half, Cummings came on as a substitute again in the 64th minute.  A scoreless second half, that included spectacular saves from Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, then went into extra-time or “Cummings time” in that series.  Sure enough he scored again in the 104th minute to put the Dynamo through to their third straight Eastern Conference Final.

The Dynamo unfortunately lost to Sporting Kansas City in the Conference finals that year.  Since that loss was the beginning of a 3 year downward spiral that culminated in last year’s last place finish in the Western Conference, one could say that Omar Cummings was the last of a long line of Houston Dynamo big-game players that led the team to 4 MLS Cups and 6 Conference Championships over a 8 year period.

Cummings came back to the Dynamo in 2014 and scored 3 goals.  After that season, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear left for San Jose and the roster turnover included Cummings, who joined San Antonio Scorpions.  He made 29 appearances for the Scorpions during their last year in the NASL and scored 10 times.  After the Scorpions folded, Cummings moved to FC Cincinnati where he finished his career.

Best wishes for whatever the future brings Omar Cummings.

Midland-Odessa moves on to NPSL South Region Final

The playoffs start a new season.  Regular season records go out the window when the playoffs begin.  The playoffs give every team a chance to start over. There are a number of ways to express the same thought….when the playoffs start, especially in lower division soccer in North America, excitement and surprise are sure to follow.

Midland-Odessa FC provided another example of this phenomenon last Saturday in Wichita, Kansas. The Sockers overcame an 8+ hour bus ride, lightning delays, 50 MPH winds and a team that had not lost a home game all season to defeat FC Wichita 1-0 in dramatic fashion on a goal from Zach Penner and earned the right to play next weekend. This will be the second consecutive year that the Sockers have made it to the final 8 of the NPSL playoffs.

The goal sequence started in the 90th minute off a turnover from a Wichita player in his own half of the field. The ball eventually found its way to Isaac Sanchez and then Jamie O’Grady whose cross to Zach Penner resulted in the only goal of the night-the only one needed thanks to a well organized Sockers defensive game plan.  The goal did come with some controversy as some on the Wichita side felt that O’Grady was offside when he played the ball into Penner. Regardless, the AR didn’t see it that way and the Sockers move on to next round of the NPSL playoffs.

Sockers Head Coach Matt Barnes had this to say in the game report from the Midland Reporter-Telegram after the game:

“Sometimes you’ve got a hold of a team that finds a way to get it done,” said Barnes, who is now among the final eight teams in the country for the second straight summer with MOFC. “It’s like nothing fazes us. I know (FC Wichita) overlooked us, but we are a tough team to beat. We came out of a really good conference and that helped us.

The Sockers now advance to play Inter Nashville FC at home Saturday night at 7:30 at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland in the South Region Final.  The Sockers might be a bit surprised to be playing this game at home, because Inter Nashville shockingly upset the team that was rated number 1 in the 96 team nationwide NPSL prior to Saturday night, Miami Fusion, in Florida via a 22nd minute goal from Gregory Warden.

The winner of Saturday night’s match will advance to the National NPSL semifinals to be played on August 5th against the winner of the Northeast Region Final, either Elm City Express (New Haven, CT.) or Clarkstown SC Eagles (Clarkstown, NY).

Game stories in the Odessa American and Midland Reporter-Telegram below:

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/article_59f63eee-6fed-11e7-9c96-7f7dd4b94ed7.html

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-MOFC-pulls-of-gutsy-road-win-to-advance-to-11308158.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop

The winning Midland-Odessa side celebrates the victory:  (MOFC Twitter

The crowd at Stryker Soccer Complex in Wichita Saturday night  (FC Wichita Twitter)

KMID-Local 2 video attached here:

http://www.yourbasin.com/midland-odessa-fc-is-moving-on

KOSA-CBS 7 video attached here:

http://www.cbs7.com/content/sports/Last-minute-goal-keeps-Midland-Odessa-FC-alive-436083173.html

The Opposition this Saturday Night in Midland:  (Inter Nashville FC Twitter)

RGV FC Toros Mid-Season Review

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Rio Grande Valley FC will arrive at the halfway point of its United Soccer League (USL) season when it completes tomorrow night’s game against Orange County FC at H-E-B Park in Edinburg.  Through 15 games of their 32 game schedule, they are 6-7-2 (20 points) and sit two places outside the final playoff spot in 10th place in the Western Conference.

It is time to take a mid-season look at what the Toros have accomplished to this point and what lies ahead.

First Half Observations:

Season Highlight Match:    RGV FC-3   OKC Energy-0  (April 29th)

“We see this performance as something to build off.”  Midfielder Eric Bird said this in the game story after this match on the USL website.  After the dominating performance against the Energy, it was hard not to be optimistic.  Eric Bird ran onto a perfect pass from Dynamo loan midfielder Joe Holland to score the opening goal in the 8th minute.  Holland then scored his first goal as a professional in the 38th minute.  Another Dynamo loanee, Jose Escalante, put the game away when he scored midway through the second half.  Most impressively, 8 of their 9 shots were on target.  The Toros defense was well organized and OKC was able to only put 1 of its 13 shots on goal.

This performance came on the heels of a slow and inconsistent start to the season, including a disappointing home loss to Tulsa the weekend before.  A week later RGV FC beat Swope Park and was then on a streak of 3 wins in 4 matches.  Things were looking up at that time.

Most Disappointing Match:    RGV FC-0   LA Galaxy 2 (Los Dos)-1 (June 17th)

It would very easy to pick the two blow-out losses the Toros suffered in Sacramento and Kansas City for this “honor”.  The home loss to Galaxy 2 sticks out as the most disappointing in my estimation.  The Toros played Los Dos twice at home in less than a month.  The first match resulted in a 1-1 draw where RGV FC gave up a second half goal to surrender the early lead built from Kyle Murphy’s 36th minute goal.  So Toros fans were looking for payback a few weeks later when Los Dos returned.  What the record crowd for a USL match at H-E-B Park of 8,656 saw instead was a 1-0 loss on a bad giveaway that allowed 16-year-old Jonah Estrada to score his first ever professional goal. On the other end, 445 passes and 60% of the possession turned into a grand total of 2 shots on goal by the Toros.

This match was a bad send off for the three game road trip coming next. Though the Toros were able to pull out an impressive win against Colorado Springs, a week after the Switchbacks had ended San Antonio’s season opening undefeated streak, they also suffered two humiliating losses, 6-2 in Sacramento and 4-0 to Swope Park to return home on a real down note.

Player who has impressed me the most this year:  Kai Greene (outside back)

Greene has really stepped up his game in 2017 and he certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.  “I feel like I’m the best one-on-one defender in the league, to be honest.”  A USL Team of the Week place earlier in the year is proof that others are recognizing his quality too.

The link below is a profile on Greene published on May 19 in McAllen’s The Monitor by Greg Luca (quote above is from this article):

http://www.themonitor.com/sports/article_45e5a328-3d01-11e7-9378-f72b19660db7.html

Charlie Ward Promoted to Dynamo:

On June 30th the Houston Dynamo announced that midfield iron-man Charlie Ward had signed an MLS contract and would join the Dynamo roster, becoming the 6th Toro to be promoted to the Dynamo in the short history of RGV FC.  Despite his move to Houston, the Toros have likely not seen the last of Ward, who likely will join the Toros regularly on loan when the Dynamo players currently involved in the CONCACAF Gold Cup return.

Dynamo and former Toros head coach Wilmer Cabrera explained why Ward had been added to the roster in comments in a Dynamo Press Release earlier this month:

“Throughout the six months he has played there and every time he comes and join us, he proves that he has enough quality to be part of the Houston Dynamo. After the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games that he played here he earned the right to be here because what he has shown in the field and what he has brought to the team,” Cabrera said. “We are happy to bring him, we here happy that he has earned the right to be with the first-team.”

First-Half Statistical Notes:

  • Ivan Magalhaes is the only player who has started all 15 matches and leads the team with 1,350 minutes-playing every minute of every match.  Not surprisingly, Magalhaes leads the team in the majority of defensive statistical categories.
  • Memo Rodriquez and Ruben Luna lead the team with 3 goals each.  Rodriquez, who scored all his goals in a single match, is not likely to be returning to RGV FC anytime soon as he is now a regular in the Dynamo game day lineup.  Eric Bird and Todd Murphy have two goals apiece.  The team sits in 24th place in the league with only 17 total goals…only 3 more than league leader Romario Williams from Charleston has scored himself.
  • Emilio Garcia, on loan from Pachuca, and Todd Wharton lead the team with two assists.
  • RGV FC is near the bottom (28th out of 30) of the league in total shots (145) but tied for 13th in conversion rate (14%).
  • Garcia leads with 16 chances created, despite only appearing in 11 games.
  • Borja Angoitia, who has played 8 of the 15 matches, leads with 16 saves.  Dynamo loanee Calle Brown has one more shutout (3) than Angoitia.  Because Angoitia was in the net for the Sacramento and Swope losses, he has conceded 14 of the 20 goals the team has conceded this year.
  • Jorginho James and Todd Wharton each have 4 yellow cards.  Both are on Accumulation Warnings and will be suspended for the next yellow card.  Victor Garza received the only red card of the year early in the season. Interestingly forward Ruben Luna has conceded the most fouls this year (28).

Second Half Preview:

Upcoming Schedule:

Home: 8   Away: 9

The season resumes with back-to-back home and away matches against Orange County SC, tomorrow night in Edinburg and Saturday in Southern California.  OC is 2 points back of the Toros, but have only played 12 games so far…the fewest in the league.

Longest home-stand:  2 games (twice)-August 12 and 19 and Sept. 9 and 16th.

Longest road stretch:  3 games-July 29 through August 6 in the Pacific Northwest.

USL Texas Derby matches:  2 games in the final 4 weeks of season (including the regular season finale)…both in San Antonio.

The challenging remaining schedule includes 4 matches against Western Conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC and San Antonio FC.

Camilo Monroy:

The young Columbian attacker has been the most exciting Toro player when he has been on the field this year.  Unfortunately, injuries have held him back and he has only played in 5 games. I will welcome seeing a lot more of him in the second half of the season.

Jose Escalante/Christian Lucatero:

Another young Latin American attacking player (from Honduras), Jose Escalante, has had limited impact this season.  Like fellow Toro and Dynamo Academy graduate Christian Lucatero, Escalante is at RGV FC on loan and doesn’t count against the Dynamo’s international roster slots. Since Houston now has a full complement of international players, with the acquisition of young DP Tomas Martinez earlier this week, I suspect this means Escalante will be with the Toros for the remainder of the year. Neither Escalante or Lucatero have been as impactful as Dynamo/Toro fans in general would like to see at RGV.  Escalante has played significant minutes in 11 games but only has 1 goal and 0 assists.  He has shown glimpses, making 8 key passes that have not been finished and almost scoring a blistering goal from long distance in Oklahoma that would have been a strong contender for USL Goal of the Year if it had gone in. Lucatero, on the other hand doesn’t get on the field very often.  He has only played 180 minutes so far this year with 0 goals, but he is still very young and being brought along at a pace the Dynamo and Toro head coach Junior Gonzalez must feel is appropriate. Patience is required.  That said, more should be expected from both of these highly regarded future Dynamo players and I hope we see it in the second half.

Playoff Possibilities:  

8 teams qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference.  As was proven last year, what happens after the USL playoffs start is a roll of the dice.  The top three seeds, including RGV FC, lost opening round games in 2016, leaving 4th seed Swope Park a clear path to the USL Championship game. Whether the Toros will now begin to make a run into the playoffs is an open question.  The team is only 2 points out of the 8th playoff slot, but also only 5 points from 14th place.

Real Monarchs, SAFC and Swope Park appear to be well on their way to securing the top 3 slots in the West.  Only Portland Timbers 2 appear to be completely out of the running for the playoffs.  Otherwise the remaining 11 Western Conference teams are separated by only 11 points.  The math for the remaining 5 slots is complicated by the fact that the number of games played so far by playoff hopefuls ranges from 12, earlier highlighted for Orange County, to 19.  On a points per game basis, RGV FC would be in the playoffs, but the games have to be played and results achieved.

It is hard to tell what we will see out of the Toros for the remainder of the year because the team has been so inconsistent.  The attendance has been excellent this year in the beautiful new stadium.   Hopefully a run to the playoffs will galvanize even more support in the Valley for this new team.   My earlier article (with a number of photos) detailing my visit to the new stadium is in the link below:

https://txsoccerjournal.com/2017/04/01/the-best-division-2-soccer-stadium-in-the-united-states/

This is about the time of the season when the Toros went 8 consecutive games without allowing a goal last year.  Now would be the time to get this rolling again if the playoffs are to happen.

Below is a link to RGV FC’s Midseason Marks by Carson Merk in the The Bull and Its Horns on SB Nation’s Dynamo Theory site.  Carson covers the team on a routine basis as closely as anybody else and is a good source of Toros knowledge.

https://www.dynamotheory.com/2017/7/12/15950308/the-bull-its-horns-midseason-marks-rgvfc

Premier Development League (PDL) Texas Week 11 Recap

The initial PDL season for the four first year Texas USL PDL teams came to an end Saturday night.  At the end of the journey, none of the teams were able to finish in the top two slots in the Mid-South Division and advance to the playoffs.  The experience of the two returning teams, OKC Energy U23 and Mississippi Brilla, was too difficult for the Lone Star clubs to overcome. Over the course of the season the two playoff qualifiers were a combined 18-1-1 against the Texas teams, the lone victory coming from FC Cleburne when they beat Brilla back in early June.  Brazos Valley won the unofficial PDL Texas Derby with 19 points, finishing 3 points ahead of Texas United.

PDL News:

Patricio Botello and Avery Ryan from Texas United were named Honorable Mention in the Week 10 PDL Team of the Week.

http://www.uslpdl.com/news_article/show/812933?referrer_id=2242498

Week 11 Game Results:

Wednesday, July 12

Mississippi Brilla-5    Texas United-1

Mississippi Brilla scored four first half goals, including two in the first ten minutes, and never looked back as they defeated Texas United 7-1 in Clinton.  The only United goal was scored by Avery Ryan in the 34th minute who capitalized on miscommunication between the defender and goalkeeper, off an assist from Francisco Vasquez.  Brilla scored all seven goals in 68 minutes.  The link below is the game story from the Brilla website:

https://brillasoccer.org/blogs/news/goalfest-puts-brilla-in-seventh-heaven

Game photo:  (Brilla Twitter)

Thursday, July 13

FC Cleburne-1   Houston FC-1

Two first half goals, one apiece for each side, resulted in a 1-1 draw between Houston FC and home team FC Cleburne at The Depot.  Jason Diaz opened the scoring for Cleburne in the 26th minute.  A 40th minute deflected shot from midfielder Thomas Hollis ended up in the back of the net for an own goal, allowing Houston to tie up the match before halftime. This was the final match of the season for Houston FC in their inaugural PDL season.

Houston FC Starting Lineup:  (Houston FC Twitter)

Saturday, July 15

FC Cleburne-4    Brazos Valley Cavalry-1

It wasn’t as exciting as the 9-goal July 4th extravaganza when FC Cleburne beat the Cavalry 5-4, but there was plenty of scoring in this one too as Cleburne won for the second time against Brazos Valley in 11 days 4-1 at The Depot.  Carlos Flores opened the scoring for Cleburne in the 40th minute and like last time it went into the halftime break at 1-0.  After goal scoring machine Elochukwu Ozumba (9 goals in 9 games) scored to level the match in the 49th minute, FC Cleburne answered with 3 goals by Daniel MooreJason Diaz and Mostafa Kamal to put the game out of reach.  Brazos Valley finished the season on a down note, losing their final 3 games after still being in playoff contention until near the end of the season.

Final FC Cleburne team photo (FC Cleburne Facebook)

Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling, outdoor

Brazos Valley Cavalry Team Photo:  (BV Cavalry Twitter)

Texas United-0    OKC Energy U23-1

With little to play for against the first place OKC Energy U23’s, Texas United put up a stiff fight in Grand Prairie in the final game of the season.  A 56th minute goal by OKC’s William Roberts, his fourth of the season, was all that separated the two sides on the evening.  OKC rested some of their starters, for example their top player Julio Moncada only played 12 minutes, but it was a inspired performance by United to finish up the season, especially after having to play shorthanded when Flavio Guzman was ejected from the match in the 72nd minute.

Texas United team photo:  (Texas United Twitter)

END OF REGULAR SEASON

FINAL REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS:

Southern Conference/Mid-South Division:

OKC Energy:              12-1-1    37 Points      +29 Goal Differential

Mississippi Brilla:      9-2-3      30 Points     +14 GD

Brazos Valley:             6-7-1      19 Points      -2   GD

Texas United:              5-8-1      16 Points      -1   GD

FC Cleburne:               4-9-1      13 Points      -17 GD

Houston FC:                2-10-2      8 Points      -21 GD


PDL logo courtesy of ChrisCreamer’sSportsLogos.Net

http://www.sportslogos.net/index.php

Midland-Odessa advances in NPSL Playoffs

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Midland-Odessa FC Sockers (MOFC) advanced to the NPSL South Region semifinals after defeating Shreveport Rafters FC 2-1 last night in the Lonestar Conference finals at Grand Communications Stadium in Midland.

The second goal came from a penalty kick in extra-time that was awarded as a result of a handball in the box in the third minute of added extra-time. Midfielder Isaac Sanchez, who rejoined the team earlier this week, converted the penalty that eventually ended up as the game winner.  In the game story in the Midland Reporter-Telegram by Will Korn, Sanchez described his feelings about his contribution to the victory:

“I really wanted to take (the penalty shot) and I was confident and thank God it went in,” Sanchez said. “The keeper was close, but this organization has given me a lot in the past three or four years and this is the way I wanted to give back. It was really special and I’m really humbled. I know a lot of guys are fighting for a place to be here and for me to be called up at the last minute, it means a lot.”

After a scoreless first half, the start of which was delayed 30 minutes by the referees late arrival, MOFC’s Ricardo Palomino opened the scoring in the 51st minute off an assist by Midland-native Darius Strambler.  The Rafters Che Walcott scored on a breakaway in the 79th minute to tie the game before the dramatic extra-time winner.

Midland-Odessa now travel to Wichita next Saturday at 7:15 p.m. to play one-loss Wichita FC at Stryker Soccer Complex.   Wichita defeated Tulsa Athletic 5-1 in Kansas last night to win the Heartland Conference championship.  The winner of that game will play the winner of the Miami Fusion FC vs. Inter Nashville FC game in the South Region Final at the site of the highest remaining seed on July 29.

The link to the Midland Reporter-Telegram’s story by Will Korn (@Will_MRT) is below:

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-MOFC-holds-on-to-beat-Shreveport-in-OT-11291785.php

NPSL logo courtesy of ChrisCreamer’sSportsLogos.Net

http://www.sportslogos.net/index.php