EDINBURG — Driving into the facility at H-E-B Park every day this week, Houston Dynamo players George Malki and Charlie Ward always heard jokes from their teammates.
Malki, Ward, Eric Bird and Memo Rodriguez are among of group of Dynamo players who got their start in the organization playing for the RGV FC Toros, and large banners of all four players still hang outside H-E-B Park, clearly visible to anyone driving into the main entrance.
“I haven’t heard the end of it,” Malki said. “They give us crap every day when we drive into the facility. ‘Your house. Your house.’”
The Dynamo certainly made the pitch look like their house on Saturday, cruising past the Toros 9-1 in a preseason exhibition.
Ward played the first 60 minutes of Saturday’s match, taking part in the first two of three 30-minute periods. He departed RGV FC as the club’s all-time leader in minutes played at the time of his signing with the Dynamo last season.
“I missed all the people. The fans are always great to me,” Ward said. “It’s good to be back, and good to see old teammates.”
First-year Toros coach Gerson Echeverry said Saturday was a learning experience for a squad that has been through just four days of training.
The Toros rotated 32 players. With the most proven and consistent group on the pitch during the first period, RGV FC trailed just 1-0. Then, the floodgates opened, as the Toros were unable to match up with a Dynamo squad that reached the Western Conference finals last season.
“We learned that a lot of guys who think they’re ready to be on the first team are not,” Echeverry said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
“We have a great attitude,” Echeverry added. “Now, we just have to learn to play better.”
Houston opened the scoring in the 27th minute of the first period, when Andrew Wenger found Arturo Alvarez in plenty of space on the right half of the penalty box, allowing Alvarez to put a left-footed shot into the left side of the net.
Alvarez called the H-E-B Park facility “spectacular.”
“This is how soccer needs to be in the U.S.,” Alvarez said. “This is great for the sport. The guys that are here with RGV Toros should take advantage of them. Happy to be here, and sure we’ll be coming down here more often.”
During the second period, former Toro Justin Bilyeu scored a header off a corner kick in the 3rd minute, Mac Steeves netted a shot from the top of the box in the 10th minute, and former RGV FC standout Bird scored on a first-touch shot from about 20 yards away in the 25th minute.
Steeves was Houston’s second-round pick at No. 43 overall in the MLS Superdraft on Jan. 19.
“It was an honor to be in the starting 11 and eventually get my first goal,” Steeves said. “Hopefully, there’s more to come.”
The Dynamo continued to pour it on during the third period. Alberth Elis put home a header when the ball deflected to him off a corner kick in the 10th minute, Mauro Manotas scored a header off a corner in the 17th minute, and RGV FC alum Memo Rodriguez scored an easy tap-in from point-blank range during the 18th minute. Manotas added a second goal in the 21st minute to make the margin 8-0.
RGV found its first goal of the match in the 22nd minute, as Elo Ozumba charged down the right wing and about halfway through the penalty box before sending a low, right-footed shot just inside the left post.
Dynamo capped the scoring on a Toros own goal in the 27th minute.
“We have a lot of work to do,” returning RGV FC midfielder Todd Wharton said. “By the score, everyone can see that. … You see the level and how different it is from our team to their team. We’re all shooting to be on an MLS roster one day, and as you can tell, none of us are ready.”
RGV FC did not produce an official roster for the match and played without jersey numbers. The club has announced just 10 signings with the open of the USL season not until March 16.
The Dynamo season begins March 3.
“We’re just working, trying to work little by little,” Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “This is going to take time. The most important is we need to be ready to start going in March. That’s the goal.”
Houston Dynamo President of Business Operations Chris Canetti said the organization would be open to returning the Valley in the future, possibly for a match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. An MLS regular season game is less feasible, Canetti said, because of obligations to sponsors and season ticket holders and the competitive disadvantage that comes with forcing the Dynamo to travel for a home game.
“We’re always thinking about ideas on how we can work together,” Canetti said. “We’d love to help them book more events down here. The Dynamo would be happy to play here whenever it makes sense.”