EDINBURG — When Aldo Quintanilla arrived for the RGV FC Toros’ open tryouts in January, he said he was about 15 pounds overweight.
He had heard about the opportunity from his uncle Jorge Diaz, an assistant on the RGV FC coaching staff. Quintanilla may not have been in top form, but the 22-year-old showed undeniable talent. He had most recently played with Liga MX club Queretaro after coming up in the Santos Laguna academy system.
“He caught all of our eyes. There was something there,” RGV FC coach Gerson Echeverry said. “He wasn’t in the best shape when we saw him. He looked a little more like me than he does now. But he’s been working so hard. Just getting after it.”
By the start of the season, Quintanilla had shed the excess weight and is listed on the Toros roster at 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds. He sat out RGV FC’s first game due to an issue with his international paperwork but has played in each of the team’s three contests since, picking up a goal and an assist while also drawing a foul that led to a penalty kick.
The Toros (0-2-2) are still in search of their first win of the season as they prepare for a road match against Portland Timbers 2 (2-2-1) at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
“At first, it was hard getting the conditioning and getting used to the rhythm played here in the United States,” Quintanilla said in Spanish. “But now, I know I’m doing much better in that sense.”
From the time he first put eyes on Quintanilla, Echeverry noticed the forward’s ability to quickly change pace, stopping and starting in an instant. But Echeverry knew Quintanilla could only maximize his talent if he was willing to make significant changes off the pitch.
“He’s learned life of trying to be a professional, of taking care of himself, which is something why he was unfit at that time,” Echeverry said. “We’ve been trying to educate him on a lifestyle. To be able to make it in this game, it’s a complete change of lifestyle. He needs his lifestyle to improve, which I think it has. And hence, he’s improving himself.”
“They helped me a lot in that sense with the diet, the practice, and the support,” Quintanilla said. “Until I got the rhythm that was needed, I was playing 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes per game. And I think now all of the hard work that we have both put has been reflected on the pitch.”
Initially, Echeverry and his staff assigned Quintanilla extra conditioning drills to try to get him up to speed.
During RGV FC’s game against Colorado Springs on April 7, the Toros’ statistical analysis showed Quintanilla covering the most distance and at the fastest rate of any player on the roster, Echeverry said.
“It got to a point where sometimes he was running more than the other guys could keep up with him,” Echeverry said. “We had to kind of almost slow him down.”
Quintanilla was born in Laredo and has spent most of his life in Mexico but said he typically visited the Valley multiple times each week to see family in McAllen.
Going forward, Echeverry said Quintanilla needs to work on better linking with his teammates to create scoring chances. Quintanilla said his focus is on improving his striking and headers to be a greater presence in the penalty area.
“I want to help the team the most I can, whether it be scoring goals or getting assists,” Quintanilla said. “And get the most minutes possible, so I can be considered one day for the MLS.”