Sanchez scores late, stuns Loyal

RGV Toros Carter Manley (2) is grabbed by the jersey by San Diego’s Loyal’s Elijah Martin (3) as they battle for control of the ball in the first half of a FC soccer game at HEB Park on Thursday in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — Deadlocked at zero with four minutes left in regulation, the RGV FC Toros found themselves deep in San Diego Loyal SC territory.

With the ball just outside the box, Toros midfielder Christian Sorto crossed a pass into the penalty area, finding teammate Vicente Sanchez streaking down the middle.

Like a heat-seeking missile, Sanchez found the ball in the air, heading it into the bottom right corner of the net to give the Toros a 1-0 victory over the Loyal on Thursday night at H-E-B Park. With the goal, Sanchez, 41, became the oldest player to score a goal in a USL Championship match.

“We knew it was going to be difficult,” Sanchez said. “This league is a very difficult league. It was a close match, but we had great effort. We were prepared to come in for one another. Really, I’m happy making the goal. But, being able to get those three points, you leave home happier. When you make a goal and the team wins, that’s great going forward for the team.”

Defensively, Toros defender Grant Robinson, who is coming off a selection to the USL Championship Team of the Week, helped anchor the backline again, coming up with three interceptions and six recoveries during the match.

While Robinson manned the backline, Toros goalkeeper Tyler Deric roamed the net, coming away with three saves on his way to his second clean sheet of the season.

During the 70th minute, Deric made his biggest save of the night. After controlling the ball deep in the box, Loyal forward Tumi Moshobane fired a shot toward the corner of the net. Without hesitation, Deric dove toward the ball, coming up with the save to keep the Loyal off the board.

“It’s huge that we’ve been able to not concede a goal and it starts with him,” Robinson said. “Every day he’s pushing guys and pushing himself and it shows in the games. It’s a real confidence boost knowing he’s behind us so we can just really go all out and run forward and not worry about too much.”

RGV Toros Ronald Alexis Cerritos (24) looks to score as he gets past a San Diego’s Loyal’s defender during the first half of a FC soccer game at HEB Park on Thursday, May, 06 ,2021 in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | dlopez@themonitor.com)

The Loyal controlled the pace during the first half, holding possession of the ball for 54% of the opening period. Still, the Loyal managed only four shots during that span, only one of which was on target.

Despite the limited possession time to open the game, the Toros were able to find scoring opportunities, including a near goal by defender Erik Pimentel during the 42nd minute.

With three minutes left in the half, Pimentel launched a shot from 35-yards out directly at Loyal goalkeeper Trey Muse, who jumped and cleared the ball with his fingertips to send the teams into the half tied 0-0.

After the break, Toros head coach Wilmer Cabrera decided to make some changes, including bringing in Sanchez during the 74th minute of the match for midfielder Elvis Amoh. The substitution by Cabrera proved to be the difference maker as Sanchez netted the lone goal to give the Toros a 1-0 win.

“He (Vicente) has some qualities and knowledge that other players don’t have,” Cabrera said. “When he moves, he moves with very good knowledge and he can hurt. All his movements are more dangerous for the opponent. His teammates know him and respect him a lot. They love to have Vicente on the field so right away it lifts their spirits.”

The Toros move to 2-0-0 on the season, extending their winning streak, which dates back to October 2020, to four games. Through the first two matches, the Toros have collected six points, putting them at the top of the Mountain Conference standings early in the season.

The Toros host the San Antonio FC (1-0-0) at 7:30 p.m. May 16 at H-E-B Park, before hitting the road for a three-game road trip.