The San Diego Loyal won 3-2 in a thrilling match with Phoneix Rising FC Saturday afternoon.
The Loyal responded massively after a 1-0 loss to FC Tulsa Wednesday, March 23.
Phoenix Rising FC is also coming off a loss but to arguably one of the best teams in the league, Las Vegas Lights 2-1 on Saturday, March 19.
The Loyal entered the game missing captain Charlie Adams which allowed for Thomas Amang to make his debut in the starting XI.
Thomas Amang has had a great impact in his time so far with the Loyal. In my preview for this game, I stated that it’d be huge for the Loyal if he could get some valuable minutes, and here we are. A huge 3-2 win came from big goals by Evan Conway, Kyle Vassell, and Alejandro Guido to lift the Loyal over Phoenix.
Early in the game, Loyal fans were holding their breath.
Jack Metcalf went down three minutes in holding his thigh and would have to come off for Conway. Conway slid into Nick Moon’s midfield spot while Moon slid back to right-back.
In the eighth minute, Tumi Moshobane whipped a great ball onto Conway’s head, who narrowly missed the frame of the goal.
In the 15th minute, good build-up play between Tumi and Thomas led to a corner that Conway again headed just wide of the post. Conway looked aggressive in his early minutes, surging forward in search of his first USL goal.
The Loyal had their best chance in the 20th minute when Alejandro Guido’s free-kick went right into the sweet spot of the box. A couple of deflections and the ball bounced right back into the path of Jack Stoneman, who skied a wide-open shot from nearly 10-yards out.
Seven minutes before the 45-minute mark, the first goal arrived. The Loyal pushed the ball up the field off a counter-attack with a Tumi pass across the pitch to Conway. Conway then went on one of the best runs you’ll see all season and placed the ball beautifully into the bottom right corner. After his two previous efforts, he was sure not to miss that one for his first USL goal.
The Loyal kept pushing the pace late in the first half.
After multiple bites in the box with a minute left in the half, Guido worked a through ball into the path of Thomas. Thomas then sent a bullet of a pass to Vassell, who calmly placed the ball into the far side of the goal. The two new signings combing for a beautiful goal and Vassell finally getting his well-deserved first USL goal.
To start the second half, Vassell came off for someone to start the half, perhaps a cautionary substitute as he did look a little knocked after his goal.
The Loyal defense held strong for the first 10 minutes of the second half, where Phoenix tried to cut back into the lead early.
In the 56th minute, Collin Martin heaved a clearance out that ended up in the path of Thomas. Thomas did brilliantly to dribble past the last defender and get a shot off for what must have been 3-0. But nope, the Phoenix keeper made a great save to push the ball out for a Loyal corner.
Three minutes later, the Loyal was knocking on the door again. Phoenix attempted to clear the ball once more, but it ended up coming off a Phoenix defender’s arm and back into the feet of Martin. Despite what could have been a penalty, Martin played the ball back to Conway, who had the chance to score his second, but a defender’s body saved the ball off the line.
Phoenix eventually got one back in the 66th minute. Quinn played a perfect inswinger onto James Musah’s head and into the back of Vegas’ net. After holding solid defensively, for the majority of the game, the Loyal saw their smallest defender, Eljah Martin, guarding Musah, who soared above him. The header halved the Loyal lead, 2-1, with about 25 minutes to go.
After the goal, the momentum clearly changed in favor of Phoenix
Five minutes after the first Phoenix goal, the second one came in style.
A Phoenix corner was forced out into the feet of Luis Manuel Seijas. Seijas took one touch before launching the ball through the pile of bodies in the box and into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
But in the 75th minute, the Loyal drove the ball deep in the Phoenix half, which by this time was covered in pink flare smoke. Guido picked the ball off a Phoenix defender and rushed into the box. As cool as ever, Guido blasted the ball into the top right of the keeper’s goal. 3-2 with 15 minutes of action to go in this thriller.
Towards the end, the game got chippy. There was a close call for a red card as Vegas came into a rough collision with a Phoenix forward who came out with just a yellow.
In the end, it was the Loyal who held on to their 3-2 lead at full-time. A huge win.
This was arguably the best all-around game we’ve seen from the Loyal all season. It was a wonderful display of attack against one of the best teams in the league. The Loyal’s defense also held strong for much of the game, but a few mistakes almost proved costly.
This game was a strong testament to the depth and heart of this Loyal team. Missing a couple of key players, the team still willed out a win against one of the league’s best. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the Loyal as they push higher into the Western Conference standings.
The Loyal will next play El Paso Locomotive on Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m. PST at Torero Stadium in San Diego.