Photo courtesy Isaiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
HOUSTON – Ruben Luna scored a pair of goals as Rio Grande Valley FC defeated the Houston Dynamo Academy U18s 4-2 as the Toros continued preseason preparations at Houston Sports Park on Thursday afternoon. The Toros featured several of the Academy’s top alumni including midfielders Christian Lucatero – who opened the scoring – and Marcelo Palomino, as well as forward Charlie Flores.
The Academy put early pressure on RGVFC in the 17th minute when midfielder Gianluca Natira stole the ball from the Toros and delivered a pass to Santiago Perez. The forward found himself in one-on-one, but Toros goalkeeper Michael Kirk proved equal to the shot.
RGVFC opened the scoring in the 40th minute when midfielder Kyle Murphy attempted a bicycle kick in the penalty area. Dynamo U18s goalkeeper Pedro Medrano got a hand on the ball and pushed it off the crossbar, but the ball rebounded to Lucatero, who headed in the rebound to make it 1-0.
The Toros came out firing in the second half, and added to their lead in the 51st minute when defender Kai Greene found Luna for his first of the game. In the 69th minute, Luna created a turnover and scored again to make the score 3-0.
The Dynamo U18s continued to push, however, and got back in the game with a pair of penalty kicks. Midfielder Kaydoe George converted his spot kick in the 71st minute, then forward Hyoung Woo-Kim drew and scored his penalty attempt late in the 89th minute.
But as the game came to an end, the Toros scored once more to seal the deal as Palomino – a current member of the U.S. U17 National Team Residency – found forward Francisco Pungo for the final tally.
Palomino’s presence with the Toros on Thursday, as well as the performances of Flores and Lucatero, was a positive for Toros Head Coach Junior Gonzalez.
“[Palomino] did some really good things for us not having trained with us, which was really good,” said Gonzalez. “I'm hoping as we continue to grow that we get more and more players coming up to the pipeline that can help us. Is important that we allow those younger players to get into a professional setting."