EDINBURG, Texas (March 7, 2020) – The Rio Grande Valley FC have signed 10 players prior to the opening of the 2020 USL Championship season on Sunday at H-E-B Park, the club announced today.
Goalkeeper Paul Blanchette, defender Robert Castellanos, midfielder Victor Garza, forward Josh Hallenberger, midfielder Christian Lucatero and defender Diego Rocha will be eligible for Sunday’s home opener at H-E-B Park against LA Galaxy II.
The signings of defender Emile Legault, midfielder Kembo Kibato, midfielder Danny Rios and midfielder Juan Castilla are pending league and federation approval.
Castilla, Hallenberger, Rios and Rocha have each been signed to USL Academy Contracts, which will protect their collegiate eligibility. Castilla, Hallenberger and Rios are all part of the Houston Dynamo Academy while Rocha is part of the IDEA Toros Academy.
“We are happy to add these players and round out the 2020 roster,” RGV FC General Manager Nick Kowba said. “It’s a talented mix of both young and experienced players and we are pleased to reward their hard work in preseason and look forward to continuing to play a part in their future development.”
Blanchette appeared in nine games for the New York Cosmos during the 2019 National Premier Soccer League season. The Palo Alto, Calif. native only conceded two goals during that stretch prior to leading the Cosmos to the NPSL playoffs last June. The goalkeeper joined Pepo Lappeenranta in Finland for two seasons from 2017-18 and finished with four clean sheets in 18 league appearances. The 25-year-old made his professional debut in 2016 when he joined USL League Two Burlingame Dragons FC on loan and played 250 minutes in three games. Blanchette made 11 saves and conceded two goals. Prior to the Dragons, Blanchette played at Loyola Marymount University from 2012-2016 where he was a two-time WCC Goalkeeper of the Year.
Castellanos returns to RGV for his third season with the club. During the 2019 campaign, the California native appeared in 17 games and finished with 70 total clearances and 22 interceptions. The defender was a steady presence for the Toros after making his debut in 2018 where he appeared in eight games and finished with 30 clearances, while winning 83 percent of the tackles.
Castilla, a member of the Houston Dynamo Academy, is the youngest signee at age 15. The midfielder trained with the Dynamo First Team throughout the 2020 preseason while also playing up an age bracket with the Dynamo Academy U-17 squad. He helped Houston’s 17s win their qualifying group in the 2019-20 Generation adidas Cup this spring and advance to the GA Cup Division I Finals for the first time in Dynamo Academy history.
Hallenberger, another Dynamo Academy product, also joined the Dynamo First Team for preseason in February and saw action in the scrimmage against RGV at H-E-B Park on Feb. 8 and in Arizona during the Visit Tucson Sun Cup. The forward joined the Dynamo Academy in 2017 as a 14-year-old and has played for the U-17 and U-19 team while in Houston. The San Antonio native was named to the U-14 Boys National Team in 2017 in Portland, Oregon for a training camp.
A Valley native, Garza will enter his fourth season with the club on Sunday against LA Galaxy II. He appeared in eight games during the 2019 season with the Toros. In 2018, Garza suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the season, appearing in only five matches.
Kibato joins the Toros from FC Helsingör in Denmark after joining the club for the 2019 season. Prior to Helsingör, Kibato was part of the Toronto FC Academy where he finished with 14 appearances and 10 starts for the U-18/19 squad. The Canadian native scored three goals with the Toronto Academy during the 2017-18 season.
Legault holds both Canadian and French citizenship and comes to the Toros after competing in the Canadian Premier League for Pacific FC during their 2019 campaign. The defender appeared in 14 matches for Pacific across all competitions, which includes the Canadian Championship. The 19-year-old competed for the Canadian U-20 national team during the 2018 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship in the United States. Legault debuted for the Canadian youth program at the 2017 Concacaf U-17 Championship in Panama. Prior to Pacific FC, Legault played for the AJ Auxerre U-17 academy team in Burgundy, France for five years.
Rios joins Castilla and Hallenberger from the Dynamo Academy. A key part of the U-17 side that advanced to the Generation adidas Cup Division I Finals, the midfielder has five goals in 13 appearances this season while splitting time between the U-17 side and the Under-19 squad. Last year as a full-time member of the U-17s, Rios scored 11 times in 22 appearances.
Rocha is currently a senior at IDEA Toros and participates in the RGV FC Toros Academy. Rocha is the second Toros Academy player to be signed to a contract with the club. During the 2019-20 season, Rocha has started in all 16 games, tallying one goal in a 4-1 road win against the Cleveland Internationals U-18/19 on October 20, 2019.
Lucatero returns to RGV FC after a spell in LigaMX with Club Necaxa. The Dynamo Academy product played for the Toros from 2016-2017. During the 2017 campaign, Lucatero appeared in 15 games for RGV before signing with Club Necaxa. Lucatero made his debut with the Toros in 2016 and finished with 18 appearances. Lucatero originally signed a Homegrown Player contract with the Dynamo on August 18, 2015. Lucatero was named Dynamo Academy Player of the Year in 2013 and 2015. In 2014 he won the Dynamo Academy Players’ Player of the Year award. To cap it off, Lucatero was 2014-15 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Central Conference Player of the Year.
With the addition of the 10 players, RGV FC now have 24 players on the active roster.
TRANSACTION: The Rio Grande Valley FC Toros sign Paul Blanchette, Robert Castellanos, Victor Garza, Kembo Kibato, Emile Legault and Christian Lucatero to contracts. Juan Castilla, Josh Hallenberger, Danny Rios and Diego Rocha and sign USL Academy Contracts.
# TOROS UNIDOS