EDINBURG — With the RGV FC Toros seemingly minutes away from another scoreless draw, Pablo Aguilar found a breakthrough.
As Toros debuting sub Carlos Small battled a defender for possession in the penalty area, the ball came rolling to Aguilar in the center of the box, and he finished a shot into the lower-left corner of the net on his second touch. The strike in the 83rd minute lifted RGV FC to a 1-0 win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday at H-E-B Park.
The victory was only the Toros’ third of the season against six losses and a USL-high 11 draws.
“We were hungry. We wanted to win,” RGV FC coach Gerson Echeverry said. “And so fortunately, we had guys running into the box. We got to Pablo, and he shot it first time and finished it really well.”
Small, acquired earlier this month on a loan from CD Arabe Unido in Panama, entered his first match for RGV FC as a substitute in the 67th minute. He very nearly scored within his first minute, receiving a cross about 6 yards from goal and putting a volley on frame that was saved by Colorado Springs keeper Moise Pouaty.
Small also nearly iced the game in stoppage time, getting a clean look from the top of the penalty box off a feed from Jesus Enriquez. Small’s rolling shot toward the center of the net was saved off the line by a sliding Taylor Hunter, who was playing on the opposite side of the H-E-B Park pitch after suiting up for RGV FC’s defense last season.
“It was a very physical game, but thankfully things went my way,” Small said in Spanish. “I’m very excited and happy to make my debut with the Toros, and I hope more opportunities present themselves.”
Echeverry said the coaching staff is working to improve Small’s fitness level with extra work outside of the team’s normal practice sessions. The Toros are just past the midpoint of the USL season, while Small was only beginning preseason training in Panama before joining RGV FC.
“He’s so strong. He’s got pace. He’s got some experience,” Echeverry said. “He’s very dynamic in just the small time that he went in. He helped change the game.”
Small is expected to continue to provide a lift for a Toros side that entered Saturday ranked last in the USL with 17 goals this season.
Even Saturday, RGV FC struggled to generate quality chances early. Echeverry said his players weren’t moving the ball as quickly and effectively as they needed to be for much of the match.
“Everybody would like to score four or five goals,” Echeverry said. “But as long as we keep getting shutouts and we score one more than the other team, I’m happy.”
Defensively, the Toros limited Switchbacks’ chances by maintaining 57.7 percent of possession for the game. The teams finished level with 14 shots each, but Colorado Springs put only two on target compared to RGV’s four.
Goalkeeper Michael Nelson, a Houston Dynamo assignment player, kept his third clean sheet in as many appearances for RGV FC. His toughest test came in the 9th minute, when Colorado Springs turned a corner kick into a header from about 6 yards. Nelson parried the ball over the crossbar.
“Someone put a body on him, and as he was going up, he tried to loop it, because that was all he can do,” Nelson said. “So I just watched it over the crossbar. That’s a save I should make, but I’m still happy I made it.”
Colorado Springs also put a free kick off the crossbar from about 25 yards in the 72nd minute, and RGV’s Todd Wharton blocked a shot attempt off the line during the 34th minute.