Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC
EDINBURG, Texas – Rio Grande Valley FC and Orange County SC both found the net in the first half as the sides played to a 1-1 draw at H-E-B Park in the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3 on Wednesday night. The Toros had the better of the early going, and Ruben Luna almost opened the scoring in the seventh minute as he beat OCSC goalkeeper Charlie Lyon to a through-ball, but couldn’t quite steer his finish on goal. The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute, however, as a terrible defensive turnover allowed Wuilito Fernandes to set up Dusan Stevanovic for a first-time finish into the right corner. RGVFC leveled 10 minutes later when T.J. Casner was brought down just inside the penalty area, and Eric Bird slid home his penalty kick into the right side of the net, sending Lyon the wrong way. Stevanovic went close to a second when a good pass by Zach Kobayashi found him in space on the right side of the penalty area, but his shot went just wide of the left post. The Toros had the first good chance of the second half as Casner broke into the left side of the penalty area and fired low to the far post, but Lyon got down well to parry, allowing his defense to clear. OCSC threatened from a set piece in the 65th minute as Juan Pablo Ocegueda headed just wide of the right post from a corner, while Bird almost bagged his second of the night with five minutes to go, only to see his header go just wide of a cross by Victor Garza. Orange County had the last chance to grab victory in stoppage time moments after Jorginho James was sent off for the Toros for a challenge on Fernandes, with Gustavo Villalobos having his shot denied by Toros goalkeeper Marco Carducci, but the game ended all square ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Orange County.
17’ – OC – Dusan Stevanovic (Wuilito Fernandes)
27’ – RGV – Eric Bird (penalty)
Three Things That Matter:
1. With both teams sitting outside the playoff positions, a draw was hardly ideal for either Rio Grande Valley or Orange County’s push to reach the postseason. For OCSC, which still has numerous games in hand, the result was certainly more satisfactory, particularly since it has a good number of home games coming up at Orange County Great Park. For the Toros, though, another home game in which the side didn’t pick up maximum points will definitely sting. With four of their next five games on the road, and the lone home game against conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC, the season is reaching the make-or-break point.
2. One of the hallmarks of the Toros’ play since the club began has been its ability to control possession and pick out good passing decisions. While the side was again good for much of Wednesday night’s game, major mistakes with errant passes cost RGVFC one goal, and could have inflicted more damage as at times the side was imprecise as it looked to build attacks from the back. Looking to split opposing lines of pressure with precision from the back instead of lateral passes that invite opponents on should be a priority moving forward.
3. Orange County was selectively aggressive with its pressure, which resulted in a well-taken goal for Dusan Stevanovic in the first half. In the second leg of the home-and-home series on Saturday in California, though, you would expect Head Coach Logan Pause will be looking for his side to take better control of the game in midfield and keep the Toros off balance. With the run of games OCSC has in the next few weeks, taking care of its home contest will be crucial to earning a place in the postseason. Three points back of eighth place going into the weekend’s action as the side’s undefeated streak reached five games, Orange County is where it wants to be, but now needs to produce wins more consistently.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Eric Bird, Rio Grande Valley FC – Bird provided a consistent attacking threat for the Toros, scoring from the penalty spot while also creating four other chances for the hosts to grab all three points.
Rio Grande Valley FC at Orange County SC – July 22, 8 p.m. ET, Orange County Great Park
Orange County SC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC – July 22, 8 p.m. ET, Orange County Great Park