Koke Vegas battled through the pain, and the San Diego Loyal beat the Rio Grande Toros in a hard-fought Saturday night match. Tumi Moshobane scored and provided the game-winning assist in the match.
The Loyal came out extremely shaky, as they nearly fell behind in just the third minute.
The ball came loose in the six-yard box, but a blocked shot cleared the danger. Vegas appeared to be stepped on as he cleared, and he required about a minute of medical attention before play could continue. Rio Grande continued to threaten as San Diego goalie Koke Vegas was forced to charge out of his net to stop a Toros attack.
The Toros were using an aggressive 3-3-4 formation, which put plenty of pressure on the Loyal defenders. Out of nowhere, the Loyal countered heavily, with Nick Moon slotting the ball into the back of the net. However, he was ruled to be offside, despite Moon appearing to have been just onside. Moon nearly scored again, with Toros goalie John Deric diving to deny the midfielder.
The Toros attack stayed potent as Loyal goalie Koke Vegas barely kept the game tied. He got just enough of the shot to redirect it off the left post in a simply incredible save. His save seemed to swing momentum to the Loyal as Moshobane broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. Moshobane fired a curling shot into the bottom left corner from outside the box. It was the midfielder’s third goal in four matches, stepping up in the absence of Kyle Vassell and Thomas Guido. Both are out with injuries, so it was critical for Moshobane and Co. to find offense.
San Diego kept the pressure on as the half closed out, with Thomas Amang’s header being parried by Deric in the final moments of stoppage time.
San Diego’s second half started poorly as well, with Moshobane blocking a shot leading to a corner just minutes into the half. Loyal manager Landon Donovan said that he thought the struggles to start each half resulting from Rio Grande being “aggressive and in your face.”. He added that he was proud of his team for “adapting throughout the game to find success.”
The resulting corner snuck through the Loyal’s defense, falling perfectly for Erik Pimentel, who leveled the match. The entire team, especially goalkeeper Koke Vegas, appealed heavily for the goal to be ruled out, but it stood. However, San Diego received an opportunity through a free kick from 25 yards out. Moshobane lofted a perfect pass to Evan Conway, who slotted it home to restore the Loyal’s advantage just seven minutes later. After the match, Moshobane, who won man of the match, said, “It’s just a team credit to keep our minds in the game and keep pushing.”. Moshobane and the Loyal certainly kept their minds in the game, finding the winning goal just minutes after the game was re-tied.
After a wayward Toros’ shot led to a goal kick, Vegas fell onto his backside, requiring the trainer to aid him for the second time in the match. He stayed in yet again, but it was clear that he was battling through the pain.
In the 74th minute, Conway came off for Andrew Carleton as Landon Donovan looked to preserve the lead. Collin Martin picked up a yellow card as he stopped a Toros attack, as the Loyal defense attempted to hold off the increasing pressure. Jack Blake and Moshobane left the match with five minutes to go, with Morgan Hackworth and Loyal captain Charlie Adams entering the match. Both sides had a handful of chances in the final 15 minutes, but Vegas’ saves and San Diego’s strong defense were just enough to seal their fifth win in six matches.
The Loyal’s win, combined with Colorado Springs’ tie on Friday, vaulted the Loyal into second in the Western Conference. They’ll head to San Antonio for next week’s match, having played seven of their previous eight matches at Torero Stadium.
San Diego’s scored multiple goals in nine of their last ten games, as their offense has been heating up.
The victory helped to continue their best season in franchise history.