The midweek friendly with Borussia Dortmund might not have gone as hoped, but a third straight USL Championship win, and shutout is exactly what the San Diego Loyal needed. Goalkeeper Koke Vegas was fantastic in the second half, while Joe Corona’s first-half volley was enough to earn the Loyal all three points.
It was an interesting first half, as the Loyal dominated the possession and shots but weren’t able to be clinical enough to turn their dominance into a lead until late in the period. Colorado Springs sat back in a low block, but they were dangerous on the counterattack. In the 10th minute, the Switchbacks’ Maalique Foster received a long ball on the right wing before rounding Loyal goalie Koke Vegas. However, Collin Martin came out of nowhere, sliding in with a perfect tackle to deny Foster a great chance.
San Diego’s best chances were created by right winger Adrien Perez, who often found himself with space to work with. However, he wasn’t able to create any clear opportunities to strike; while the Loyal created nine shots in the first 40 minutes, none were on target.
That changed in the 42nd minute, as Blake Bodily sent in a cross. It went over everyone in the box, but San Diego’s Joe Corona was the first to the ball. With his first touch, he smacked a volley past two Colorado Springs defenders and goalie Joseph Kuzminsky, finding the side of the net. It was a wonderful volley, earning the Loyal a well-deserved lead at the break. “It’s just about getting a hard cross across the goal, and hopefully, good things happen.”, said Bodily after the match.
Corona came inches away from another goal just moments into the second half when his left-footed strike soared outside the post, as it became clear that San Diego was not content to sit on their 1-0 lead.
Colorado Springs wasn’t going quietly, though, as Juan Tejeda’s left-footed volley in the 60th minute forced Vegas to dive to contain the ball. After the first few minutes of the second half, the Switchbacks had become the better side, putting more pressure on the Loyal’s back line.
Just moments later, a tremendous chance went begging for Tumi Moshobane when a pair of errant touches by Switchbacks defenders meant that the net was vacant, but Moshobane couldn’t put the ball on target from 12 yards out.
In the 72nd minute, Colorado Springs’ Romario Williams was played in, racing toward Vegas for a one-on-one. Vegas spread his arms and legs wide, sending the shot caroming away, ending another great chance for the Switchbacks to equalize.
Vegas raced off his line to clear a loose ball in the 87th minute, shooting it out of the danger zone. The Switchbacks just couldn’t find a way past San Diego’s keeper, despite all of their second-half chances.
Finally, Ronaldo Damus put the game to bed with a goal in stoppage time. His first shot was saved, but the rebound returned to him, and he took advantage of his second chance. A visibly emotional and exhausted Koke Vegas fell to the floor and laid there after Damus secured all three points. “I’m very happy for Koke that he got the clean sheet, and today he earned it.”, said Loyal coach Nate Miller after the match.
After the third straight league shutout, the Loyal haven’t conceded in 278 minutes of soccer. They’ve got four more home matches in a row to start the month of August off, so it’s a great chance to shoot up the standings.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.