San Diego Loyal 2023 Season Preview
March 11 can’t come soon enough.
After a tough ending to 2022, the San Diego Loyal aim to be one of the top teams in the USL Championship once again. The Loyal fell to the Oakland Roots in the first round of the playoffs after finishing as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Loyal host Detroit City FC for the first match of the season in what will be a glorious Saturday night. This will also be the first time the two clubs meet on the pitch.
Landon Donovan and the Loyal underwent many changes this offseason, especially for the former gaffer himself. In a handful of club-changing moves, Donovan being promoted to Executive VP of Soccer Operations was the first domino to fall. This was a huge move that many didn’t see coming so quickly.
As a result, assistant head coach Nate Miller was promoted to head coach and will be the second manager in club history.
“It’s a tremendous honor to represent this club on the field and in the community,” Miller said. “I am extremely proud of the identity we have formed, the culture we have created, and the success we have achieved up to this point. We are building something very special in San Diego and I am excited to lead this team to achieve our ambitious goals.”
Miller has history coaching in Michigan from 2015-19 and joined the Loyal for their inaugural season. He has been Donovan’s guy since from the beginning.
Charlie Adams, Thomas Amang, Evan Conway, Collin Martin, Elijah Martin, and Koke Vegas signed new contracts for the 2023 season. Ebenezer Ackon, Kyle Adams, Alejandro Guido, Tumi Moshobane, and Camden Riley had contract options picked up by the club. Contract options were declined for Andrew Carleton, Kyle Vassell, and Jack Metcalf (retired).
The team announced Wednesday that they and Amang have agreed to part ways. It’s unclear as to why the move was made, but I’m sure it was in the best interest of both sides. San Diego now has lost their top two goal-scorers from the 2022 season in, Amang and Vassell. They scored a combined 25 goals between the two of them, which was 37% of the goals scored (68).
The SD attack will look very different this season. However, the club brought in some fresh talent that should fill the void nicely. As if 4-5 hometown reunions weren’t enough, the Loyal brought in Joe Corona, who returned to San Diego, where he went to college. Corona is a San Diego State alum where. He scored three goals in 15 appearances.
The midfielder is known for his time with the USMNT while also playing nine seasons for the Tijuana Xolos and a season with the LA Galaxy in 2019-20. For Tijuana, he appeared in 185 matches and scored 12 goals. He scored two with Galaxy and scored three goals in six seasons with the USMNT between 2012-18. Corona is 32 years of age and should pair nicely alongside fan-favorite Alejandro Guido.
Forward Elliot Collier also signed with the Loyal this offseason. The 28-year-old from New Zealand has been around the country a lot since 2016 but makes a contribution everywhere he goes. He has scored a goal for every team that he has appeared with since 2013 and was a part of a dominant team last year in the USL Championship. Collier won the 2022 championship with San Antonio FC while scoring four goals in 22 appearances. He also has 14 goals scored since 2016 and is still in the prime of his career.
Look for Collier, Moshobane, and Conway to be the top goal-scorers in 2023 unless the team brings in more talent.
Rostered Players as of 2/22/23
Goalkeepers: Duran Ferree, Koke Vegas
Defenders: Ebenezer Ackon, Kyle Adams, Jackson Kasanzu, Elijah Martin, Camden Riley, Grant Stoneman
Midfielders: Charlie Adams, Alejandro Guido, Morgan Hackworth, Collin Martin, Jack Blake, Joe Corona, Blake Bodily
Forwards: Evan Conway, Nick Moon, Tumi Moshobane, Elliot Collier
Positive signs from preseason match number 3 against LAFC.
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) February 19, 2023
Vegas will enter the season as the primary starter. The Spanish keeper was a huge part of the success last season ending 9th in the USL with 77 saves. He also ended 16th with six clean sheets. With another year under his belt in San Diego, the 27-year-old should be primed for another big season.
Duran Ferree has been the talk of the offseason. The 16-year-old from *guess where* … San Diego signed a contract back on Sept. 14, 2022. He was the youngest signee in club history and made his pro debut last season and started once in two appearances. Ferree is on the U-17 USMNT and has started every match in their latest U-17 Championship. USA did not lose a single match and is now on their way to the U-17 World Cup. In three matches, Ferree had two clean sheets and allowed three goals against Guatemala.
The kid is on his way to becoming a star, and his development with the Loyal is a major reason why.
Kyle Adams, Grant Stoneman, and Elijah Martin will likely return as the three main starters on the backline. Unless the team makes another addition, I don’t expect Ackon, Kasanzu, or Riley to steal much of their time.
Nick Moon could see many appearances at full back opposite Martin as he did last season.
Corona and Guido paired next to each other should be fun to watch for The Locals. The supporters of San Diego can’t wait to watch the home-grown talent ball out at Torero Stadium.
Collin Martin and Captain Charlie Adams will control the midfield, per usual. This will be their fourth season together, and the chemistry they have build between one another is a big part of what this team stands for. They give you 100% effort all the time, and the Loyal benefit with them on the pitch.
Jack Blake should continue to bring goal-scoring ability off the bench and will get a fair share of starts throughout the season as well.
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The attack will be the biggest difference for the Loyal in 2023. Every other starter should be familiar outside of Corona. It’s unclear what it will look like right away, but I assume that Moshobane and Conway will get the leeway early on in the campaign. Moon and Collier will provide pace on the wings.
There is certainly a lot to look forward to once again for the Loyal. This team is not thrilled with how last season ended and will be on the hunt for the trophy in 2023.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. 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, and contributes regularly about the Padres.