After traveling over 2,000 miles west to Edinburg, Texas, Hartford Athletic battled to a 0-0 draw against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.
The Green and Blue created an offensive chance in the first minute of this one. Joel Johnson delivered a beautiful bending cross into Juan Carlos Obregón Jr., who soared for a header that was saved by diving RGV keeper, Tyler Deric.
The next 45 plus minutes were dominated by the Toros. They rattled off 15 unanswered shot attempts, 17 total in the half, and six of those on target. Their first dangerous opportunity during that span came in the 8th minute after an errant pass from Ariel Martinez sailed too far for Tulu. RGV’s Christian Pinzon secured possession of the ball and threaded a pass to a surging Frank Lopez. The Cuban, playing in just his second match since June 4th due to injury, was through for a breakaway but missed his point blank try wide to the right.
As a result of RGV’s constant offensive pressure, Yannik Oettl was extremely busy during the first half and had several impressive saves to keep the game even at zero. Christian Pinzon lofted a ball into Ricky Ruiz in the 40th minute, who hit his jumping header on goal. Oettl stood his ground and reacted with his lightning reflexes to stop a prime scoring chance for the home side.
Not long after, midfielder Juan Cabezas rocketed a shot from just outside the 18’ in the 45+4th minute and Oettl flashed the leather once more to send the ball over the bar and out of play. The Toros were awarded a corner kick, but the referee blew the whistle to mark the end of the half. It would have been their eighth corner of the half, with Hartford blanked in the category.
The Toros continued to produce chances offensively throughout the second half and defended well to keep Hartford’s opportunities at a minimum. In the 72nd minute, Pinzon sent a ball into the box for halftime substitute Frank Gaviria, who acrobatically hit a bicycle kick pass into Jonathan Ricketts. The defender went airborne for a volley, but his attempt was blocked by Ash Apollon, who converged to deflect the ball off its course towards the goal.
Despite having more final third entries and winning the possession battle in the final period, Hartford was outshot by a wide margin. Green and Blue technical director Ray Reid made four of the five changes available to him all during the second half, but still no shots were attempted. RGV was able to get off 32 total shots, the highest total by any team in a single match across the USL Championship this season.
Oettl was spectacular all night, finishing with a season high eight saves and separating himself as the clear cut player of the game. His diving stop in the 90+2 minute on a left footed boot from Emilio Ycaza kept his third clean sheet of the campaign intact and earned his team a point on the road.
Hartford has another quick turnaround and will host Birmingham Legion FC on Saturday, July 30th at Trinity Health Stadium.