EDINBURG — After 60 minutes of scoreless soccer, the RGV FC Toros entered the last stretch of Saturday’s home finale deadlocked with Fresno FC.
The Toros have long been eliminated from playoff contention, so coach Gerson Echeverry was not interested in a conservative approach. He subbed midfielder Bryce Marion on for defender Omar Ontiveros in the 83rd minute.
“We said, ‘Screw it, we’re going to go for the win,’” Echeverry said. “We want these people leaving knowing that these guys, maybe we didn’t accomplish some things that we wanted to, but the one thing we said from the beginning of the year is any team we were going to be a part of was going to fight for this community — was going to fight for everything we had. And we did.”
Less than 90 seconds after the late substitution, forward Carlos Small netted the game-winning goal in the 84th minute, lifting RGV FC to a 2-1 victory.
The winning play was triggered by defender Conor Donovan, who switched the field to the left wing. Jesus Enriquez fielded the ball on a bounce and played a header to Small at the top of the box.
Small’s first touch put the ball around a defender with his left foot, and his second was a low shot into the center of the net from about 8 yards.
“I saw Caliche, Carlos, making the run,” Enriquez said. “So it just dropped, and I headed it to him. He did the rest. He cut him, he finished, and that’s his goal.”
The win improves RGV FC to 7-12-13 on the season, including a 6-3-8 record at H-E-B Park. The Toros are just 1-9-4 on the road.
“When you’re playing at home, you have to make it your fortress,” Donovan said. “Our fans do a great job. It’s a tough place to come play down here. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s a big field. The wind also plays a huge role. For teams to come down here, they also can be a little surprised.”
In addition to assisting on the winning goal, Enriquez netted RGV’s first tally in the 9th minute. He stole the ball from a defender on the left edge of the penalty box and then dribbled down the byline to spark the attack. He sent a low cross toward the middle that was deflected by Fresno’s keeper and another defender before bouncing back toward Enriquez, who connected with a diving header.
“He tried to block me and block me, but I’m a little guy with some guns… just kidding,” Enriquez said. “But I got to the ball, and I just tried to find a cross. I wasn’t expecting the ball to come back to me. It came back to me, and I just headed it.”
Echeverry’s perspective on the play was a little different.
“I’m screaming at him, because he’s trying to finish it first instead of, he had two guys cut back. And I’m saying, ‘Please, Chuy, pass it back,’” Echeverry said. “The ball comes and he scores it. ‘Great job, Chuy. Well done.’”
The goal was Enriquez’s team-leading sixth of the season. He scored just once in the Toros’ first 16 matches but has tallied five times in the 16 games since.
“He’s so dynamic,” Echeverry said. “He creates so many things. He is a bundle of energy. He’s so creative. And when he’s in the final third, just his balance and his agility, he wrong-foots guys that are just difficult to deal with. … It’s just at the beginning of the year, most of the time he wasn’t even hitting the target. Now, he’s forcing the keeper into making saves. His progression has been tremendous.”
Agustin Cazarez equalized for Fresno with a header in the 14th minute, but the Toros controlled play most of the way. They held a 24-13 advantage in total shots, a 10-4 margin in shots on target and maintained 53.6 percent of possession. RGV entered the match ranked tied for 29th in the USL in goals with 31.
“A lot of guys looked to combine. They made runs for each other,” Echeverry said. “It was fun to watch. It was really enjoyable.”