EDINBURG — After Sacramento Republic scored the game-winning goal on a Carlos Rodriguez header in the sixth minute of stoppage time, all the Republic players on the pitch charged toward the middle of the field in celebration.
And when the officials blew the final whistle on the match just two touches later, RGV FC Toros coach Junior Gonzalez was also running out on the field, imploring officials to explain how Sacramento had scored a game-winning goal more than 5 minutes and 30 seconds into a stoppage time period that was meant to last 4 minutes.
“I’m trying to figure out where he got two extra minutes out of,” Gonzalez said.
Whatever the cause of the extended duration, the result was a 2-1 Toros loss on Saturday at H-E-B Park.
The final tally came when the Republic’s James Kiffe sent a corner kick to the far post, and Rodriguez fought around the Toros’ Ivan Magalhaes to get a header on it from about 8 yards. The confusion surrounding stoppage time was just part of RGV FC’s disappointment.
“Regardless if it goes eight, nine, 10 (minutes), quality teams that know how to win and know how to close games out, they are mentally stronger,” Gonzalez said. “We gave up a restart goal in the 96th minute. It’s unacceptable. We have to do a better job of being mentally strong.”
Gonzalez’s emphasis on mental toughness stems not just from the end of the match, but from Sacramento’s first score, as well. After Kyle Murphy tallied to put RGV FC in front in the 69th minute, Gonzalez said the Toros “turned off mentally and tuned out.”
Villyan Bijev netted the equalizer for Sacramento just three minutes later, in the 72nd minute.
“You’re kind of pissed off they got one back on us, but you just have to keep playing the game,” Murphy said. “It happens. You have to keep going at them and try to keep pushing and get another one.”
The loss drops the Toros to 7-13-7 on the season. RGV FC hasn’t won at H-E-B Park since June 10, with three losses and four 1-1 draws in that span.
The Toros haven’t won overall since Aug. 6, taking three losses and three draws since.
“It’s a pretty crappy feeling. It’s probably the worst feeling we’ve had all season,” Murphy said. “When you go up on a team and give up two goals. Especially one of the last kicks of the game, they score. It’s very disappointing. Everybody is pretty upset.”
With just five matches to play, RGV FC clings to only an outside shot at the playoffs, needing to make up six points and leapfrog at least five teams to earn the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
The Toros next chance to make up ground will be a home match Saturday against Reno 1868.
“Sooner or later as individuals and collectively, we have to be accountable for our actions,” Gonzalez said. “I feel just as much responsible for what happened on the field as the players do. I have to do a better job as a head coach of making these guys mentally stronger in the training environment. Collectively, we have to be better.”