EDINBURG — On a day when RGV FC keeper Nico Corti made five critical saves to preserve a clean sheet, the moment that stuck with him the most was the one time the ball ended up in the back of his net.
In the 30th minute, Reno 1868’s Antoine Hoppenot played a through ball to Lindo Mfeka, who found space on the right side of the penalty box. Corti charged forward and attempted a sliding challenge, giving Mfeka an opening to chip the ball into the goal as the referee’s whistle blew to signal offsides, negating the score.
“I felt like that helped me for the other ones I ended up making a save on, because I stayed big and made them beat me,” Corti said. “I was able to react and make a big save on those. I got a free pass on one when I gave myself up, and that kind of helped me later on.”
Corti was not beat again on Wednesday, helping the Toros (1-3-3) salvage a scoreless draw against Reno 1868 after an unusual 10:30 a.m. kickoff at H-E-B Park.
When Hoppenot sent a shot toward goal from the right side of the penalty area in the 36th minute, Corti leaped to put his fingertips to the ball and deflect it up into the crossbar. In the 54th minute, Hoppenot launched another right-footed shot from the right side of the box, and this time Corti slid forward to kick the rolling attempt away with his left foot.
Corti notched another critical stop in the 59th minute. After Kevin Partida’s initial shot from the top of the penalty box was blocked, Reno’s Brian Brown took control on the left side of the box and tested Corti from about 6 yards. Again, Corti made a sliding challenge to parry the shot with his legs.
“Nico had a good outing and saved us a couple times,” RGV FC coach Gerson Echeverry said. “I guess you can say, overall, it could’ve been a fair result with the draw.”
Echeverry praised Corti’s growth during the early stages of his first professional season following a four-year run at Stanford University that included three national championships.
Corti has posted back-to-back clean sheets with a combined seven saves in his past two matches. Echeverry said Corti conceded some goals that “maybe he could’ve done a little better with” early in the season, allowing eight scores with just four saves during his first four matches with RGV.
“You look at those, you analyze those and you say, ‘OK, here are a couple things to tweak, and then we’ll be in a better spot,’” Corti said. “I think the past couple games, I’ve done a better job of making those couple plays. That ends up being the difference for us.”
Corti’s outing kept the Toros even in a match played at a slow tempo in muggy conditions with temperatures around 90 degrees.
Reno put five shots on target compared to the Toros’ two and held a 13-11 advantage in shots overall. Reno also owned a 5-0 margin in corner kicks and controlled 52.7 percent of possession.
“The heat played a factor into that and the speed of play,” said Eric Bird, a Houston Dynamo assignment player who made his 2018 debut with RGV FC on Wednesday after being a regular starter on the 2016 and 2017 teams. “That kind of dictated how both teams approached the game and how things went later on. So it was tough. It was tough today. It was hot out.”
Bird said he was disappointed to misfire on his two looks at goal during the first 25 minutes, which were the Toros’ best offensive chances early. With the wind at its back, Reno took control of the game for the remainder of the first half.
When the wind advantaged flipped in the second half, RGV was unable to pressure forward because of tired legs, Echeverry said.
“Our lines were not where they needed to be,” Echeverrey said. “The communication wasn’t as clear between our center backs and our midfielders, and I think it caused us a little bit of confusion.”
The Toros’ cleanest look at goal came in the 63rd minute, when Aldo Quintanilla dribbled in free on the right wing. He moved the ball to within about 6 yards of the net and then sent a low shot careening just wide of the near post.
“Obviously, we wanted the win today. When we keep a shutout, you always feel like what could’ve been. We had some chances, too,” Corti said. “We’re going to keep going. If we get shutouts and defense has a solid performance like we did today, we’re going to give ourselves chances to win games, which his all we can really do.”