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Rio Grande Valley FC has not had many matches at H-E-B Park lately. It seemed like just yesterday when the Toros picked apart El Paso Locomotive FC 5-2, but that was three weeks ago.
The Toros returned to H-E-B Park, their safe haven between extended road trips, on Saturday night to beat the Phoenix Rising 1-0. RGV FC’s current home form is keeping it in the hunt for the playoffs as the win pulled the Toros to within a single point of the USL Western Conference playoff places.
It was RGV FC’s fourth straight home win. The Toros have not lost at home since May 27, as a 3-3 draw against Miami FC on June 10 started this five match unbeaten run.
The Toros’ current home form could not have come at a better time and is a stark contrast from the team’s home form at the beginning of the season.
RGV FC opened the season with three straight matches at H-E-B, only to settle for draws. Including the Miami FC match that started the unbeaten run, the Toros were winless in their first eight matches at H-E-B Park — RGV FC went 0-3-5 amid that stretch.
The atmosphere around H-E-B Park during the current stretch is different, too, as is expected with winning compared to settling for draws and losing.
“It was good getting out here and seeing all the fans,” goalkeeper Tyler Deric said after the win Saturday. “The fans were incredible today, they hung out after the game was over. I signed some autographs with some kids, and I think that players are really enjoying and learning to play on our field.”
The late-season form is an annual tradition. The past two seasons, the Toros have caught fire to end the season and push for the playoffs.
The Toros play five of their remaining nine matches at H-E-B Park. The last two, which could decide the Toros’ playoff fate, also are at home.
RGV FC head coach Wilmer Cabrera said it was important that the Toros pick up home wins and as many points as they can on the road during a news conference after the win against El Paso as a three-match road trip loomed.
The Toros only picked up a point in those matches.
Deric commented on the physicality of the midweek match against the defending USL champion, San Antonio FC. Cabrera opted to rotate his squad for that match in anticipation for Phoenix Rising, and yet the Toros only lost 2-1 — a nod to the current strength of the squad.
“Every game is going to be very complicated,” Cabrera said. “We have to plan. We had to plan how we approach the three games, because Phoenix did not play on Wednesday and we had to play on Wednesday against San Antonio. So we needed not to gamble, but to decide which team we want to compete against 100% and which team we want the other players to go out on the field and prove themselves.”
“I think it was a good decision at the end because we won,” Cabrera added. “It was tough because we lost one of our players, the captain, in the first half and had to play the second half with only 10 men.”
Deric and Cabrera both praised the defensive performance from the Toros during the second half to help deliver three points. Especially, how the team created chances to kill off the game, despite being down a man the whole second after Juan David Cabezas was sent off for receiving two yellow cards on different tackles during a span of only a couple of minutes right before the break.
RGV FC’s Colombian forward, Juan Galindrez, grabbed the match’s lone goal during the 17th minute after he latched onto a Taylor Davila corner. Galindrez has three goals and two assists since receiving a significant increase in minutes following his return from injury.
“Every week that goes by, I gain confidence on the pitch. On tonight’s scoring play, it is a play that I have practiced and have very well-calculated where I attack the first post, and tonight it paid off with a very important goal for us,” Galindrez said in Spanish.
The Toros go for their fifth straight win at H-E-B Park at 7 p.m. Saturday against San Diego Loyal SC.