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Rio Grande Valley FC 2021 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/21/21, 5:00PM EDT

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Rio Grande Valley FC President Ron Patel (left) and Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera (right) are at the helm of the club off and on the field as it enters a new era this season. | Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC


2021 Outlook

As new club President Ron Patel took charge of Rio Grande Valley FC last year, the new direction the club was heading in began to take shape. This offseason, it entered an exciting new stage as the Toros assumed technical control of the club’s on-field product while retaining their partnership with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo FC. The aim is now to produce a team that can compete for a title as well as offer young talented players the opportunity to build their careers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Leading that new on-field build is Wilmer Cabrera, who was the Toros’ first Head Coach in 2016 when he led the side to a second-place finish in its expansion season. Since then Cabrera has led both the Dynamo and Club de Foot Montreal, and won silverware at both in the U.S. Open Cup and Canadian Championship. Cabrera has begun to bring together a combination of experience and potential, including the notable signing of former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain, who in 2018 was a Finalist for the Championship’s Young Player of the Year award.

Joining Kuzain in the new-look Toros midfield are set to be experienced veterans such as Juan David Cabezas – whom Cabrera worked with at the Dynamo – and former Sacramento Republic FC midfielder Rodrigo Lopez. Pulling together a fresh group of players to contend in one season is always a tall order, but Cabrera’s track record says it’s a possibility.


Notable Arrivals

Wan Kuzain, Midfielder: 2018 Championship Young Player of the Year Finalist from Sporting KC

Adrian Vera, Midfielder: Former LA Galaxy II standout brings extensive Championship experience

Rodrigo Lopez, Midfielder: Veteran playmaker may fill holding role in center of midfield

Tyler Deric, Goalkeeper: Experienced shot-stopper makes move south from Houston


Notable Departures

Kembo Kibato: Loaned to FC Tulsa for 2021 Season

Deshane Beckford: Loan expired, now with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Juan Carlos Obregon Jr.: Out of Contract

Isidro Martinez: Signed with New Mexico United


Two To Watch



A finalist for the USL Championship's Young Player of the Year award in 2018, midfielder Wan Kuzain is one of the big offseason arrivals for the Toros. | Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

Wan Kuzain, Midfielder

Still only 22 years of age, Wan Kuzain brings a tremendous skillset to the middle of the park for the Toros in what might prove one of the landmark signings for the club’s new era. Kuzain brings more than 50 games of Championship experience with Sporting Kansas City II, and also saw limited action in the top flight, and his ability to link play and deliver from set pieces should make him a key cog in the midfielder for Wilmer Cabrera’s side.

Tyler Deric, Goalkeeper

With more than 100 appearances for the Houston Dynamo under his belt, including in the Concacaf Champions League and U.S. Open Cup in addition to Major League Soccer, Tyler Deric’s experience should lend itself to helping form a cohesive defensive unit. There’s going to be competition for the No. 1 jersey with Colin Miller having arrived from Loudoun United FC, but Deric would seem to be the pick to start the season at least given his past experience.


Coach



After first leading the club in its inaugural 2016 season in the Championship, Wilmer Cabrera retakes the reins at Rio Grande Valley FC as it starts a new era at H-E-B Park. | Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC

Wilmer Cabrera (1st Season)

Just as he was prior to the Toros inaugural season in 2016, Wilmer Cabrera has been handed somewhat of a blank slate to try and bring together a competitive squad in the Rio Grande Valley for the 2021 season. After what the Colombian achieved in his first stint at the club – a postseason berth and home playoff game in its first year – there’s a sense that something good could be brewing for the Toros. The league is tougher now top to bottom, but that will be a challenge Cabrera will gladly accept.


Key Number


24 When Wilmer Cabrera first led Rio Grande Valley FC in 2016, the side posted the best defensive record in the league, allowing 24 goals in 30 games. Going back to those basics could provide a serious boost to the Toros as they enter their new era.


Possible Lineup




Projected Finish: Sixth, Mountain Division

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