EDINBURG — The RGV FC Toros, who sit in 16th place in the 17-team Western Conference, host the second-place Phoenix Rising at 7:30 tonight at H-E-B Park.
The game is an undeniable mismatch on paper that can be summed up by the 21 points separating the two clubs in the standings. Still, the Toros feel they have the ingredients for an upset.
The main reason for optimism is the Toros’ performances at home. Their last outing at H-E-BPark was their first loss in eight matches at home this year. Most of the results were ties, but the chances always existed.
“Every single game at home, I think we’ve had the better of the game,” Wharton said. “I think all the results that we tied 0-0, we should have scored one or two goals in each of those games. I think we’ve definitely gotten a little bit unlucky with the result. They are building on each other with the long winless streak here, but this is a long season and there’s a bunch of games left.”
Toros coach Gerson Echeverry also said the issues are in the details of a match, and show up in specific moments that become turning points in those matches.
“Just a matter of those little details that need to be better in order for us to pull those ties into wins, or even those losses into ties,” Echeverry said. “I didn’t really feel that we’ve really been outplayed to a point where we had no chance in winning or tying those games.”
After a weekday practice that had to be modified and moved indoors due to the severe weather conditions in the Valley, Echeverry acknowledged that the time to be patient and wait for success to come is over.
The coach admitted that “getting close” isn’t acceptable this late in the season.
“It’s too many points that we’ve given away at home; our fans are coming to see us succeed,” Echeverry said. “I think we’ve put on a pretty good show. We just haven’t been able to get those wins.”
Consistent lack of offense is the Achilles’ heel for the Toros. They’ve only scored 14 goals in 14 contests, a total that ties them with San Antonio FC for fourth worst in the Western Conference.
“One of our biggest challenges has been our offensive output,” Echeverry said. “We’ve created a lot of chances we just haven’t been able to put the ball in the back of the net at the rate that’s needed to have some success.”
The first-year coach was insightful when he assessed the frustration the young, orange-clad group is facing in 2018.
“We train every day and they’re constantly passing quizzes, and the game on Saturday when we play under the lights is the test, and you either pass or you don’t,” Echeverry said.
“There has been times some guys are passing, but there have been very few games that we feel that everyone has gotten a passing grade.”
Despite the low conversion rate on the campaign, he feels constant scolding of the team could wear on his players’ psychologically and isn’t the best path.
“Of course you always have to find some positives, you can’t just beat them down because that’s not going to help anybody,” Echeverry said. “At the same time we can’t just think it’s all roses and that everything’s fine. This is professional sports and we need to make sure we get some points. It’s about results. This is a results-oriented business, and these guys need to start bringing results for all of us.”
For a team that has failed to get points in their last three games due to consecutive losses, the mistakes seem to be the telling theme of their streak.
Defender Kyle Adams acknowledged that his group plays well for most of their matches, but the consequences of slipping for even one play are costly.
“I think we’re playing well for a majority of the game, but obviously soccer is a 90-minute game and we have to perform for the full 90 minutes,” Adams, the New Zealand native, said. “Since we’re a young team and don’t have a lot of experience together as a team, we have those little moments of lapses of concentration and these older, more experienced teams punish us.”
While the season has been disappointing for them, a three-point result could help them leap over a club and tie two others, if those teams don’t also earn points this week.
Wharton, the Toros’ team captain, spoke after practice, knowing that his team has the tools to take down a tough team in their backyard.
“At home I think we’ve been the better team for probably every single game,” Wharton said.
It’s going to click eventually. I know we keep saying that, but like I said there’s a lot of season left we have to keep focusing on the next one.”