Ferree, defense helps Loyal to gritty 1-0 win

Credit: San Diego Loyal

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Credit: SD Loyal

The San Diego Loyal picked up a gritty, hard-fought, 1-0 win on Sunday afternoon. The visiting Tampa Bay Rowdies had a staunch defense, but San Diego found their way through thanks to some good fortune. The Loyal made sure not to waste it, securing all three points in a great effort.

The first half featured lengthy stretches of poor soccer as both sides struggled to string together multiple passes in the other side’s half. Tampa Bay had a lot of trouble getting the ball into the Loyal’s half, but San Diego couldn’t seem to take advantage. The Loyal didn’t produce any clear looks at any point in the half, having to settle for headers from crosses to provide their only chances. They couldn’t seem to do much with those either, as they produced just two shots, neither of which were on goal in the first 40 minutes of the half.

However, the Rowdies didn’t trouble goalkeeper Duran Ferree very much either, as none of their three shots in the half were on target. Ferree, who is a 16-year-old, was making his first start in USL play this season. He seemed very comfortable with passing the ball, though he really wasn’t tested at any point in the first half. Early on, Tampa Bay focused on pushing the ball down the right wing, coming after Elijah Martin and Kyle Adams. Those two did a very good job of handling the pressure, which made it an easy job for Ferree. 

In the 29th minute, Tampa Bay’s Jordan Doherty sent a shot that just skated past the left post, but that was really the only good opportunity of the first 40 minutes. In the 42nd minute, San Diego’s Adrian Perez sent in a shot from outside the box. It was weak and headed towards goalie Connor Sparrow’s near post, but it went through the diving Sparrow’s hands. The only shot on target from either team found its way home, giving the Loyal a 1-0 lead at halftime. 

Just minutes into the second half, San Diego had what was by far the best chance of the day. Ronaldo Damus found himself one-on-one with Sparrow, and his chip beat the keeper. However, it glanced off the post, somehow keeping the Loyal’s lead at one. Then, after picking up the ball, Tampa Bay nearly equalized. The Rowdies crossed it into the middle when the Loyal’s Camden Riley sent it towards his own net. However, Ferree got just enough on the ball to send it into the crossbar, where it then bounced over.

The match did settle down after the fiery start to the half; the Loyal seemed to be much more confident and controlled when in possession of the ball. In the 64th minute, manager Nate Miller moved to a more defensive lineup, substituting out Damus and Evan Conway, a pair of forwards, for Collin Martin and Elliot Collier, a midfield and a forward. Just moments after the substitution, San Diego got a pair of chances in the box, but Sparrow contained them well. “Up until about 70 minutes, we played the game perfectly…there was a 15-minute period in the second half where we were totally dominant, and we could’ve extended that.”, said Miller.

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The Rowdies best look in half an hour came from substitute Jerome Williams, who leapt highest, but he sent his open header wide of the net. In the 83rd minute, Tumi Moshobane departed for Morgan Hackworth as Nate Miller’s men looked to extend their home winning streak to four games. 

A brief moment of panic came in the 88th minute when Ferree played a pass that was intercepted. Ferree was out of position, but his defense won the ball back while he scurried back towards the net. “I think stuff like that will happen, and you just have to move on quickly.”, said Ferree, who played one of the best games of his young career. San Diego’s defense seemed to have answers for everything that the Rowdies threw at them.

Tampa Bay never got anything close to a good look in stoppage time, as San Diego secured their fourth win in seven matches. “Today, we needed them {the fans} to help us preserve the lead. Away from home, that’s much more difficult.”, said Miller.

That keeps the Loyal at second place in the Western Conference, two points behind the only team to beat them this season, Sacramento Republic. They’ll head to Seattle for a mid-week match with the MLS Seattle Sounders in the Open Cup.

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