Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC
EDINBURG, Texas – Arizona United SC rallied to earn a 1-1 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC on Wednesday night at the UT RGV Soccer Complex. Arizona (4-5-4, 16pts) had a big chance to take the lead early as Long Tan’s close-range finish was snuffed out by RGVFC goalkeeper Callum Irving, but the Toros (6-4-5, 23pts) took the lead in the 21st minute when Eric Bird beat United’s offside trap to finish off a through-ball by Jose Escalante. The Toros had the chance to double their lead just past the hour-mark, only for Memo Rodriguez to hit the crossbar, and on the ensuing counter-attack Chris Cortez released Tyler Blackwood to notch the equalizer in the 63rd minute. The hosts came closest to finding a winner late on, but United withstood the Toros’ pressure to earn a point on the road.
21’ – RGV – Eric Bird (Jose Escalante)
63’ – AZ – Tyler Blackwood (Chris Cortez)
Three Things That Matter:
1. The difference in the game was basically the width of a crossbar. Had the Toros taken a 2-0 lead on a well-worked opportunity that saw Jose Escalante find a late-arriving Memo Rodriguez for a clear shot from 15 yards, it’s hard to imagine RGVFC letting the lead slip. Instead, Rodriguez’s shot came back on the crossbar, and United hit the Toros with a perfect counter-punch, as Chris Cortez’s perfect pass found Tyler Blackwood in stride to level the score less than 30 seconds later.
2. Limited by injuries for much of the season, Eric Bird scored his third goal in as many games on Wednesday night for the Toros to give the hosts the lead midway through the first half. Considered a promising prospect when selected in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft last year by the Philadelphia Union, Bird finally appears to be hitting his stride in the professional ranks, with his second start of the season bringing more positivity after scoring off the bench in each of the past two games.
3. Arizona’s commitment throughout the game to limit the Toros clear looks on goal is evident of the new foundation Coach Frank Yallop has tried to build in his first half-season in charge of United. While there were moments, such as Rodriguez’s shot off the crossbar referenced above, that saw Arizona maybe drop a little too deep, the way the team’s midfield and defense worked to cover for one another was a big reason why Arizona took a point away from the game, its seventh in the past three games.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Jose Escalante, Rio Grande Valley FC – After serving a suspension on Saturday against Sacramento Escalante returned to the starting lineup for the Toros and showed why he’s been arguably the brightest player for the Toros all season, providing the assist on Eric Bird’s goal, and almost setting up Memo Rodriguez for another.
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Orange County Blues FC – June 26, 8:30 p.m. ET, UT RGV Soccer Complex
Arizona United SC vs. Sacramento Republic FC – June 25, 10:30 p.m. ET, Peoria Sports Complex