Courtesy: Rio Grande Valley
2016 USL Preview: Rio Grande Valley FC
Release: 03/16/2016
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The hybrid affiliation of Rio Grande Valley FC and Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo is about to see the light of day. RGV has put the infrastructure in place, from bringing in a head coach with an extensive MLS and international track record to a roster that incorporates both young potential stardom and professional experience. How Wilmer Cabrera’s side will fare is a mystery without having played a game, with a number of players who are green to the professional level, but the Toros have appeared to have made some great strides in fielding a product that The Valley could embrace.

Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera
Stadium: RGV FC Toros Stadium
2015 results: (2016 expansion club)
2015 postseason: (2016 expansion club)

Goalkeeper: Devin Perales has been a fixture of Texas soccer for years, from his youth days with the Development Academy’s Lonestar SC, to the PDL’s Austin Aztex and then the 2015 USL season when the Aztex made the professional move. With 16 games under his belt last year for the on-hiatus franchise, the 22-year-old will now be the anchor of the expansion Toros. Perales posted five shutouts, five victories and a 1.16 goals-against average with Austin.

Defense: Being the 26th overall selection of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Brazilian Ivan Magalhaes will naturally garner some attention in the early going to see how he performs. Magalhaes’ focus will be in the left center back role. Taylor Hunter spent the 2015 USL season with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on a loan, logging 14 starts and a goal. Among the other defenders is Kevin Garcia, a former MLS Supplemental Draft pick by the New England Revolution, who is familiar with Cabrera’s coaching through his youth days at BW Gottschee. Kai Greene joins out of Seton Hall and is expected to be at either center or right back.

Midfield: Homegrown Christian Lucatero joins RGV’s young midfield corps for 2016, introduced as one of the Toros’ first two players this offseason, and he will have plenty of USL familiarity alongside him. Former Arizona United SC midfielder George Malki made 24 appearances last year. Dynamo Homegrown Memo Rodriguez is coming off his first USL season when he was loaned to the Charleston Battery in 2015. Former Philadelphia Union selection Eric Bird, a standout for Virginia during its 2014 NCAA Championship campaign, made three appearances on loan with the Harrisburg City Islanders last year. New to both RGV and the league are Jamaican international Jorginho James, Bird’s collegiate teammate and 2015 PDL All-League selection Todd Wharton, the Dynamo’s third-round selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and former Clemson standout T.J. Casner and England native Charlie Ward, who played at various youth levels at Aston Villa and Stoke City.

Forward: Juan “Charly” Flores made history as the Dynamo Academy product became the USL team’s first signing. The organization anticipates a bright future with the striker, who has also earned some international exposure with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team. As for more immediate success with RGV, the Toros signed 23-year-old Bosnian Dzenan Catic. The 2014 PDL Most Valuable Player with the Michigan Bucks, Catic was drafted by the Philadelphia Union and loaned to the Harrisburg City Islanders and Carolina RailHawks last season.

Strengths: The midfield depth is quite impressive heading in as Cabrera and the Dynamo have found a good balance of USL familiarity to mesh with the organization’s young products at RGV. It would be no surprise if Malki particularly turns into the Toros’ key leadership figure. Malki has two previous USL seasons under his belt, and he has played for United’s former head coach Michael Dellorusso, who is now assisting Cabrera.

Weaknesses: Inexperience is the obvious shortcoming among a young roster and a new franchise. Should the USL-experienced personnel that Cabrera has peppered throughout the field speed up this learning process, the maturation should theoretically move quickly.

Key number: 9,400 – The anticipated RGV FC Toros Stadium will have a seating capacity approaching 10,000.

Noteworthy matchups: The home opener at the state-of-the-art RGV FC Toros Stadium in Edinburg, Texas will feature the Toros going up against the 2015 USL runners-up LA Galaxy II on April 30. Following that game, RGV takes on fellow in-state expansion side San Antonio FC on May 7 at Toyota Field.

Coach’s view: “They have very good potential, and they are close to what the Houston Dynamo are looking for from young players coming out of college. The RGV FC Toros will help them to improve a few details and keep them in a highly competitive environment.” – Wilmer Cabrera on the team’s six signings on Wednesday

Current roster (updated: March 16, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Devin Perales
Defenders: Kevin Garcia, Kai Greene, Taylor Hunter, Ivan Magalhaes
Midfielders: Eric Bird, T.J. Casner, Jorginho James, Christian Lucatero, George Malki, Memo Rodriguez, Charlie Ward, Todd Wharton
Forwards: Dzenan Catic, Juan “Charly” Flores

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