The San Diego Loyal beat Club Tijuana 3-2 in an international friendly Saturday afternoon at Torero Stadium.
Associate Head Coach Nate Miller sent out a very similar starting XI to the team that played the Whitecaps last weekend. Newcomers Koke Vegas, Kyle Adams, and Kyle Vassell all made their second appearances for the Loyal while Jack Metcalf returned for his second game after a long recovery from shoulder surgery last year.
The stage was set at the second-ever Clásico Sin Fronteras.
The lights were beaming, and the locals were singing.
As the crowd slowly silenced for what may have been the quietest part of the game, the whistle blew to begin action, and the crowd hopped right back onto their feet.
This half was thrilling.
The match began with the Xolos on the front foot. They attacked the Loyal quickly and took advantage of all of San Diego’s wayward passes.
Three minutes in, during the Loyal’s first attack, we got a breakthrough. Sloppy play led the ball into Nick Moon’s path after a sliding pass from captain Charlie Adams. Moon then darted into the box and played it back to Tumi Moshobane, who took a beautiful touch six yards outside the box to control. Tumi then rolled the ball past the keeper’s outstretched glove and into the bottom left corner.
The second came in the 18th minute after a long ball ended up in the path of Alejandro Guido. Guido then attempted an audacious chip over the keeper, which was then cleared off the line by a Tijuana defender. Unfortunately for the Xolos, the ball ended up right back in the path of Guido, who dispatched a clinical finish into the side netting. Loyal two, Tijuana nil.
The action didn’t end there.
In the 28th minute, the Xolos were awarded a penalty. Daniel Lopez stepped up to the spot and barely placed his shot through the gloves of Vegas. The score became 2-1.
The Loyal then tripled their goal tally in the 35th minute. Adams’ launched a beautiful inswinging cross from a wide free-kick towards Grant Stoneman, who beautifully headered the ball into the opposite side of the goal. Less than 40 minutes in, and this match already had four goals, a thriller for all soccer fans.
The Loyal had a chance to make it four as Guido slid a perfect through ball into the path of Vassell. 1-on-1 with the keeper, Vassell decided to fake a shot and cut back, but the keeper was quick on his toes and made a low stop to Vassell’s powerful shot.
The first half whistle finally blew in a half that featured more goals than most full games.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, and we still got to see the same energetic Loyal side we saw in the first half. Kyle Vassell has another through ball played to him, but this time he smacks it against the post. It feels as if every time he touches the ball, he inches closer to his first goal with the Loyal.
“He’s more frustrated than anyone else that he didn’t score,” said Associate Head Coach Nate Miller. “You can see how physical he is, he’s gonna cause problems for opponents. He’s had amazing chances, he’s been a bit unlucky, but I think the goals are gonna come.”
At the 76th minute, the Loyal proceeded to substitute almost their entire XI, most likely in an attempt to preserve fitness.
Despite the occasional counter-attack from the Xolos, The Loyal did well to maintain possession in the second half. They let the game come to them and didn’t force too many unnecessary passes that could have put them at risk of conceding.
In the 85th minute, the Xolos finally got a second. A counterattack broke for the Xolos as Jaime Alvarez sped past the Loyal defenders with the ball. He then played a ball across the box, which, after a deflection from a Xolos player, found its way to Ruben Hernadez, who put the ball into the back of the net from close range.
The rest of the half featured relentless attacks from the Xolos on the young substitutes of the Loyal. But the substitutes manage to hold off for just long enough. The final whistle had gone off. The game ended Loyal 3-2 Club Tijuana.
Two games into the preseason and three weeks into training, the Loyal are looking to find some form heading into the new season.
“There’s a lot of things we need to do in the attacking third to improve, we’re creating a lot of chances, but we need to be more clinical and better at creating higher quality chances,” said Miller. “Defensively, I think today we allowed Xolos in our box a bit too often, So when we’re defending our own half, I think we can be better. But you know it’s just three weeks, and we have three more weeks, so we’re just going to keep building.”
The Loyal’s next two preseason games between LA Force and San Diego State University have times to be determined. Still, their home opener will be held March 12, 2022, at Torero Stadium versus the LA Galaxy II.