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Rio Grande Valley FC 2022 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 03/04/22, 5:00PM EST

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2022 Outlook

The first season following the restructuring of the partnership agreement between Rio Grande Valley FC and Houston Dynamo FC, giving overall technical direction to the Toros coaching and technical staff for the first time, proved a major success for the club. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera, back for his second stint at the helm after leading the Toros in their inaugural campaign and going on to lead both the Dynamo and Club de Foot Montreal in Major League Soccer, put together a balanced squad of youth and experience that advanced to the USL Championship Playoffs for the second time in club history and then sprang a penalty shootout surprise against Phoenix Rising FC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals before their campaign ended against San Antonio FC the following round.

Now the task for Cabrera and the Toros is to try and repeat that success without a collection of key players that were central to last year’s success. Among the departures this offseason was veteran midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, transferred back to Sacramento Republic FC, and leading scorer Elvis Amoh, now at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. To try and address those departures, Cabrera has looked to find similar profile players the gaps, with former United States international Jose Francisco Torres arriving to replace the veteran gap left by Lopez and last season’s USL League One Assists Champion Ricky Ruiz – formerly of Chattanooga Red Wolves SC – looking to provide the creativity.

There are key veterans returning, too, with goalkeeper Tyler Deric having re-signed over the offseason to join returning defenders Erik Pimental. Some familiar faces also return, with defender Robert Coronado and midfielder Isidro Martinez set for their second stints at the club after most recently competing for OKC Energy FC and New Mexico United respectively. There will be the temptation to think the Toros won’t be able to catch the same energy they had a season ago this time around. As we found out last year that could be a mistake as the Toros held their nerve late in the season while others faltered.


Notable Arrivals

Jose Francisco Torres – Former United States international brings experience to midfield after season with Switchbacks

Juan Pablo Torres – 22-year-old midfielder had two goals, three assists on loan with Austin last year from NYCFC

Ricky Ruiz – Last season’s League One Assists Champion for Chattanooga Red Wolves SC gets chance to step up

Robert Coronado – Defender returns for second stint at club after competing for OKC Energy FC


Notable Departures

Rodrigo Lopez – Veteran midfielder was transferred back to Sacramento Republic FC after stellar season

Elvis Amoh – Toros’ leading scorer last season made free agent move to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Carter Manley – Center back joined South Texas Derby rivals San Antonio FC as free agent

Christian Sorto – El Salvador international made move to join Miami FC


Two To Watch


Isidro Martinez, Midfielder

A hometown product, both as Texas’ USA Today Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2015 at Brownsville’s Simon Rivera High School and at UT Rio Grande Valley collegiately, Isidro Martinez headed to New Mexico United for the 2021 season after two seasons with Rio Grande Valley FC to start his professional career. Now he’s back in the valley and will be hoping to return to the form that saw him log eight assists for the Toros in his rookie season in 2019 while maintaining the side’s course from a season ago under Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera. Where Martinez could improve is in his finishing – over three seasons, he’s recorded only two goals on 5.17xG according to Opta – and if he can add that to his game it could lead to a breakout season in front of his hometown support

Jose Francisco Torres, Midfielder

Jose Francisco Torres joined Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC a season ago and played a veteran’s role in the club’s return to the postseason with 26 appearances as well as one goal and three assists from his holding midfield role. As the Texas native and former United States international moves to the Toros this offseason, something similar in terms of minutes and influence will be the aim for Torres this season as he looks the likely successor in central midfield after the departure of Rodrigo Lopez to Sacramento Republic FC. At 34 years old, Torres might not be at the top of his game, but his quality should provide a center point for RGVFC to build around as it looks to maintain its positive gains of a season ago.


Coach


Wilmer Cabrera (2nd Season)

Wilmer Cabrera’s return provided a vision and energy that the Toros had been lacking in recent years and resulted in a trip to the postseason. The experience the Colombian brings to the sideline is among the most extensive in the Championship and will be crucial again as the Toros look to replace some major parts from last year’s success.


Key Number


3 Rio Grande Valley FC began and ended the 2021 regular season on three-game winning streaks, but only recorded back-to-back wins once otherwise throughout the campaign. Finding a more consistent level is likely to be key for the side to make a second consecutive trip to the postseason.


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