Photo courtesy of Rio Grande Valley FC
Rio Grande Valley FC, the hybrid partner of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, can look back at 2016 with plenty of pride after showcasing itself as one of the best Western Conference teams during its first season.
Naturally some changes are on the way for RGV as it gears up for a new year. The club recently announced the addition of Head Coach Junior Gonzalez to take over for Wilmer Cabrera, who earned the move to the Dynamo side. Then there is the nearly 10,000-seat H-E-B Park, a soccer-specific stadium in Edinburg, Texas, in which the organization had hoped would be further along construction-wise in early 2016.
RGV President Bert Garcia said during the 2016 USL Winter Summit that the venue should be in place for the public this summer season.
“It’s been a lot of trials and tribulations with the stadium and with the weather,” Garcia said. “We are happy with the progress and the construction. It’s going to be a stadium that I think people are going to love to play at and that the community’s going to be very proud of, and hopefully the league’s proud of as well.”
Cabrera helped lead RGV to a second-place finish in the Western Conference this year, doing so with an action-packed brand of play and superb defense to the tune of a USL-record 760-minute shutout streak.
While the postseason was a shortened one – a deflating last-minute, 3-2 conference quarterfinal loss to OKC Energy FC – the season overall was a trendsetting stretch as Cabrera’s expertise proved to be a massive benefit.
“He was able to educate us a lot and help us fine tune some of the elements we needed in order to be a quality program and a quality team,” Garcia said. “On the field, we sincerely didn’t expect to have the success that we did. In my opinion, we had the best team in the league for quite a while. We lost with two goals within a minute and a half in stoppage time, and no one ever expects that would be the way to lose.”
The hybrid relationship with Houston will always bring about personnel changes on the field and sidelines, but that is to be expected. The main thing is that RGV’s framework appears to be firmly in place.
“We want to make sure we’re feeding players to the Dynamo, and we did,” Garcia said. “We not only were able to feed players – we were able to feed them a head coach and an assistant coach.
“Based on that, it was a success, and we were able to put Edinburg, Texas, RGV FC Toros, the Houston Dynamo and the USL on the map.”