Photo courtesy of Swope Park Rangers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rio Grande Valley FC continued its impressive push up the Western Conference standings as Ruben Luna’s first-half tally and T.J. Casner’s second-half score led the Toros to a 2-0 victory against the Swope Park Rangers on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Victory Field. Goalkeeper Callum Irving also had a key penalty kick save when the Toros were clinging to a one-goal lead. Luna has scored in five consecutive games now, tallying six goals in total during his hot streak. The win also briefly put RGV into first place in the conference with 45 points, one ahead of Sacramento Republic. Sacramento would later rally for a 2-1 victory against Orange County Blues FC to improves to 13-6-8 (47 points) to become the first West team to clinch a postseason berth. RGV improved to 12-5-9 (45 points) overall and 6-3-4 on the road. The Toros are on a 10-game unbeaten streak (6-0-4) and a five-game winning streak. Swope drops to 10-10-6 (36 points) overall and 8-4-1 at home. The Rangers saw their five-game home unbeaten stretch (4-0-1) come to a close. This was the third meeting between the two fellow expansion sides. RGV earned a 4-1 victory on May 21 in the first affair, followed by Swope’s most impressive win of the season, a 4-0 decision on June 8 at Children’s Mercy Victory Field.
8’ – RGV – Ruben Luna (Memo Rodriguez)
67’ – RGV – T.J. Casner (Charlie Ward)
Three Things That Mattered:
1. RGV’s set piece chances throughout the first half were taken with superb confidence, and in the 23rd minute the Toros got on the score sheet. Memo Rodriguez’s corner kick from the right side eluded a leaping Amer Didic, and when the Swope defender couldn’t deflect the ball, Ruben Luna was the only one there to finish. From seven yards out, with his body parallel to the edge of the six-yard area, Luna dove for the ball and headed it into the inside of the left post for a 1-0 lead. It was Luna’s fifth straight game with a goal, tallying six during that span.
2. Swope drew a penalty kick in the 57th minute but was unable to find the equalizer as the ball would hit each post. Paulo Nagamura, one of nine players on loan from Sporting Kansas City, fired his PK toward the left of the frame and RGV goalkeeper Callum Irving dove correctly to his right to deflect the ball off of the left post. The sequence didn’t end there as the rebound was up for grabs and Emmanuel Appiah converged for the second attempt, only to hit the right post.
3. Approximately 10 minutes after a scare on the defensive end, RGV decided to add to its lead as T.J. Casner snuck the ball past Swope goalkeeper Tim Melia for a 2-0 cushion in the 67th minute. Melia had an up and down match in net. The Sporting goalkeeper, a seven-year MLS veteran, perhaps could have done better on Casner’s low strike. He had some good moments, though, including a massive save on a free kick in the 23rd minute as he set up his wall perfectly and covered his box well during that sequence. Melia is the fifth goalkeeper utilized by Swope this season.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Ruben Luna, Rio Grande Valley FC – One of the driving forces during RGV’s 10-game unbeaten streak, Luna’s scoring prowess continued in full force with an impressive diving header.
Swope Park Rangers vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC – Sept. 10, 8:30 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Swope Soccer Village
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Portland Timbers 2 – Sept. 10, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toro Stadium