After playing every minute of the RGV FC Toros’ first 10 matches this season, defender Conor Donovan signed a first-team contract with the Houston Dynamo on Thursday.
Donovan, 22, ranks as RGV’s leader in clearances with 46 and blocks with 13, playing a critical role as the Toros held opponents scoreless during four of his final five appearances.
Toros coach Gerson Echeverry praised Donovan’s “boisterous” mentality and leadership ability from his central defensive position.
“Conor’s quality, what he’s done here, I think he’s been very solid,” Echeverry said. “He worked his butt off. He’s talented. So all of those attributes, and just the right timing of him being healthy, being ready, playing well, and those guys needing him. It was a good opportunity. For me, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Donovan is the eighth Toros player to sign a Dynamo contract in the USL club’s three-year existence, joining defenders Kevin Garcia, Taylor Hunter and George Malki, midfielders Memo Rodriguez and Eric Bird and forward Jose Escalante.
RGV’s Kyle Adams matches Donovan’s total with 900 minutes played this season, but the Toros have otherwise rotated defenders. Omar Ontiveros has played 630 minutes across seven matches, Kai Greene has played 547 minutes across seven matches, Manny Padilla has played 444 minutes across seven matches, and Robert Castellanos has played 180 minutes across two matches.
“That’s the nature of the beast with our organization here,” Echeverry said. “The next guy has to be ready, and that’s why we rotated guys. … I think it’s exciting, I think it’s challenging, and we have to embrace it. We’re not here to complain because we’re missing one guy. We have to make sure we get it done.”
The 2018 campaign marked Donovan’s first season with RGV FC after he played as part of a defensive rotation with the Orlando City B USL team the past two years.
As a youth player, he played under Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera with the U-17 national team, where he also first met Echeverry. He went on to be selected No. 22 overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, leaving North Carolina State following his freshman season after signing a Generation adidas contract.
He made his pro debut for Orlando City’s MLS side on Aug. 8, 2015, but played only 10 minutes before suffering tears of all three major ligaments in his knee. The past three years have been geared toward returning to the MLS level, Donovan said earlier this season.
“It’s just taking care of business every day,” Donovan said in April. “Whether it’s training, or regen, or just playing in games. It’s taking the small jumps and obviously having that as a goal to get to the MLS, but not solely just focusing on, ‘Oh, I have to get there. I have to get there.’ It’s improving every day so that comes to fruition.”