Loyal’s playoff chances remain alive as Rubin earns hat trick in 3-2 win over Phoenix

Loyal

Credit: SD Loyal

Phoenix, Arizona 

The San Diego Loyal defeated the Phoenix Rising 3-2 in an intense matchup, thanks to striker Rubio Rubin’s hat trick in the first half. That hat trick was the first in Loyal history, and it could not have come at a better time for San Diego.

The 2020 USL Championship Playoffs are just a few weeks away, and the Loyal know that they control their destiny.

San Diego lost to Reno 3-1 back on Aug. 22, which would mark their 4th-straight winless match. Since then, Landon Donovan and the Loyal have three wins, two draws, and zero losses to fight their way back in contention.

With 14 matches under the belt, the Loyal are 6-4-4, good for 22 points, and second place in Group B of the USL Championship. The Loyal must remain in second place come to the end of the season to advance to the playoffs.

With just two matches left, and if San Diego goes on to win both matches, they will qualify as the second or possibly even the first seed if Phoenix loses all three of their remaining games.

The quest for the playoffs started on opening day, but it became a reality Saturday night.

San Diego started the match firing on all cylinders as they immediately were dialed in on the attack. Just three minutes in, Rubin found the back on the net from the right side, as he left the Phoenix goalie clueless.

The first of Rubin’s three goals showed how crucial his late-season signing was. San Diego had trouble getting out to a lead early on in the season. With the season almost over, that is far from the case today.

Less than 10 minutes later, Rubin and the Loyal broke free on the fast break, and right in front of two defenders, Rubin drilled the liner with his left foot from about 10 yards away.

San Diego jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead against the top offensive team in the USL Championship. The Rising had their chances as well as they put up a ton of shots in the first half. Their elite skills prove a tough task for Donovan and the Loyal.

Rising forward, Junior Flemmings leads the USL in goals with 13 on the season in 13 games. In the 41st minute, Flemmings put the Rising on the board with a liner to the bottom-right corner of the post. Phoenix cut the lead to one with just a few minutes before the end of the first half.

Rubin and the Loyal continued their dominant attack as they kept pushing and fighting to make a statement. Rubin decided that he would put on a free clinic in Arizona as he weaved his way through multiple defenders for the goal. Rubin used his skills to escape the pressure, and relentlessly found the back of the net in the 45+ minute.

Arguably the best goal of the season for the Loyal adds on to their advantage 3-1, in the final seconds of the first half.

Both teams were in need of a break for halftime as the pace of the game was electrifying. The Loyal and Rising were both on the attack throughout the half as the possession time was even.

A back-and-forth battle in the second half forced both team’s defenses to step up. The Loyal would do whatever was possible to add on to their two-goal lead. Phoenix would force turnovers and would try to cut into the lead one goal at a time.

It took 44 minutes, but Flemmings would again reach the back of the net as he scored on the header following the corner kick. The score was 3-2, with less than a minute left in regulation time. Forward Santi Moar would assist on both goals for the Rising.

Time was the Loyal friend in the second half as it would eventually run out, not allowing for the top team in Group B to even the match.

The players were ecstatic after the victory as they surpassed two teams to move into second place. Ruben led the team to where they needed to be and showed strong efforts in the hard-fought win.

The next match for the Loyal is up north on the road Wednesday, Sept. 23, against Los Angeles Galaxy II at 7 p.m. With three straight wins now for San Diego, they will look to finish strong and earn another much-needed three points to have a chance for the playoffs.

All matches can be seen on ESPN+ and The CW San Diego.

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Chris Spiering
Chris is set to graduate from the University of San Diego at the end of 2020. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, while he has also contributed about the Padres.

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Chris Spiering
Chris is set to graduate from the University of San Diego at the end of 2020. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, while he has also contributed about the Padres.