RGV FUTBOL SOCCER NEWS | NOTICIAS DEL FÚTBOL VALLE DE TEXAS: Lies and broken dreams - Grandes end season dead last
Lies and broken dreams

Grandes end season dead last; Fraud, exodus of players, coaches, staff plague Valley team

RGV Grandes FC end season in last place of PDL Mid South Division.

By RGV Fútbol/Staff

Related Links: Versión en Español

McALLEN, 20 July. - A player walkout prior to the start of the season finale of the RGV Grandes’ lackluster debut in the USL Premier Development League was just some of the drama that played out in the Laredo Heat’s 4-1 rout of the Valley squad on Sunday before 125 souls at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.

The loss was the club’s fourth in a row and ended the Grandes’ debut season just as it started, with a resounding loss to the Heat.

Laredo gave the Grandes a warm welcome to the PDL with a 5-1 defeat on May 6 at the Texas A&M-International University Soccer Complex. The Heat also notched a 2-1 victory over the Valley team on May 21 and a 3-0 shutout win on July 12 helped wrap up a sweep of the four-game season series by outscoring the Grandes 14-3 overall, and 7-1 in a five-day span.

The Heat improved to 10-1-3 (wins-draws- losses) for 31 points with two games left to play in their season against West Texas United on July 21 and Chivas El Paso on July 23. Laredo is currently in second place in the six-team Mid South Division of the PDL. El Paso (10-2-3) is the divisional leader with 32 points.

The season-ending rout dropped the Grandes to a 3-2-11 (wins-draws- losses) record for 11 points, and secured their spot in the cellar of the Mid South Division. The RGV squad tied for the least amount of goals scored in the division with just 19 tallies. The Grandes also conceded 29 goals in 16 matches, the second-most in the division.

Their dismal performance resulted in accumulating only 11 of a possible 48 points in the 16-game PDL regular season that started with a six-game losing streak, not including an exhibition loss to a Monterrey-based Tigres U-20 squad on April 27.

The exhibition match against Tigres was later determined to be an unsanctioned match by the United States Soccer Federation and one of several attempts by the Grandes organization, owned by José Ignacio Larraga, to defraud the public since January.

Before the final kickoff of the season, four Grandes players that included Ariel Barraza and Mario Pérez walked out on the team due to the RGV organization’s non-fulfillment of their contracts. The Valley squad’s introduction at the beginning of the match against Laredo was delayed as the club scrambled to suit up enough players to sit on the bench and avoid a hefty fine that’s levied by the USL when a team lines up less than 14 players.

Of the four players on the Grandes’ bench against the Heat, two of them were injured and one was claimed to be the team’s player-coach David Oteo, according to the game summary on the USL Web site. However, Oteo was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt for the game, and did not count as a player for the Laredo match, nor did it seem he had any intention of playing.

Over the course of the season, the Grandes used at least 29 players. After their elimination from playoff contention at the beginning of July, more players began to abandon the team. The mass exodus included players such as Fredrik Ekvall, Noé De los Santos, Jesús Mireles, Olaff Mina, James Stansberry, Mario Pérez, Ariel Barraza, Kristoffer Daniel Medina, Ángel Higareda, Guillermo Flamarique, Alexandro González and Eduardo Álvarez, among others.

Some players left due to injury, such as Sharyland standout Alex De la Garza, who was injured in a Grandes practice prior to the start of the season. These players were not given any assistance by the organization to cover their medical expenses.

Attendance at RGV Grandes games was almost non-existent. Photo of Grandes season finale against the Laredo Heat on July 17, 2011. Photo special to RGV Fútbol.com. Click to enlarge.

However, the exodus of personnel from the Grandes organization was not limited to players and it didn’t start at the end of the season.

The team’s media relations director left the team before the beginning of the PDL season. Scottish head coach Gary Hamilton, who is also the executive director of the McAllen Youth Soccer Association, resigned his post after the third match. He only coached the unsanctioned exhibition game against Tigres and the season opener at Laredo.

Hamilton’s assistant coach Dan Balaguero, the UTB Scorpions head coach, followed suit. Balaguero coached the second and third games of the season in place of Hamilton, who was tending to personal matters in Europe, prior to his resignation.

Team owner Larraga’s other business venture, Sueños y Talentos, saw its General Manager Héctor López also leave the team recently. The Grandes GM Ezequiel Morales remained with the club through the end of the season, but rumors surrounding the team indicate he will not return for a second stint.

Disorganization and lack of a marketing strategy also hindered the team at the ticket booth with attendance averaging less than 300 fans per game at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium, where matches were played in the outfield in a funeral-like atmosphere without the use of a game clock and scoreboard.

West Texas United player urinates on outfield wall of the Edinburg Baseball Stadium during a game against the RGV Grandes on June 18, 2011. Courtesy photo. Click to enlarge.

Attendance was so bad at one point of the season that a West Texas United player urinated on the outfield wall during a game without so much as raising an eyebrow. However, a local newspaper reporter and a photographer in attendance at the game did take notice. The reporter mentioned in his Twitter account that no one noticed because "no one is here."

Financial woes and accusations of fraud have also been wide spread throughout the existence of the new PDL franchise and directed at its owner.

Bounced checks, non-payment of debt or services rendered to city governments, players, coaches and vendors are just some of the accusations that have been made against Larraga.

Last September, Larraga’s Sueños y Talentos entity never paid a $10,000 prize to the amateur soccer club El Faraona that won a year-long soccer tournament, according to team captain Omar Millán.

Millán and his El Faraona teammates were among several people and organizations that were paid by Larraga with checks that bounced on more than one occasion.

"He's not a truthful person," Millán said. "We trusted him. He promised us that we would be paid and he never did. His checks bounced. And we're not the only ones he's done this to."

The Sueños y Talentos tournament organized by Larraga wrecked havoc from Brownsville to Laredo, leaving a trail of unpaid bills and broken promises to local soccer leagues, players and officials.

RGV Fútbol