The San Diego Loyal (4-1) defeated El Paso Locomotive FC (0-4), 3-2, on Sunday, April 3.
The Loyal dominated the first half and are now starting to show signs of being an ambitious club that could go on and win a championship. They still have a long way to go, but the early signs are very encouraging.
The match had a very slow tempo Sunday afternoon. There were plenty of stoppages of play and enough conversations between the referees and players to fill a two-part novel.
With the win, the Loyal moved up in the conference to second place. They currently sit behind the Colorado Switchbacks, equal in points at 12 but with a lower goal difference.
The Loyal won the match without captain Charlie Adams and right-back Jack Metcalf, who are both sidelined with injuries.
“They’re both progressing better than we expected,” manager Landon Donovan said. “Jack, potentially by the end of the week, could be available.”
The Loyal got their first goal in the 21st minute. Nick Moon did a beautiful job carrying the ball into the box and took the keeper out of the equation. Moon then slid the ball across the goal to Vassell, who had an open net to finish his second goal of the season.
The equalizer came on El Paso’s third shot of the day.
After a fantastic save from a close-range shot by Loyal keeper Koke Vegas, Harry Brockbank made his way into the box and scored the equalizer off the rebound from Vegas.
Five minutes before the half, Thomas Amang broke down the wing for another opportunity. He swung the ball into the box, but it flew a bit too far wide of the goal. Evan Conway controlled it and played it back to the middle of the box, where Tumi Moshobane hit a belter deflected into the back of the net.
With seconds left in half, El Paso gave the Locals one last reason to get out of their seats. Diego Luna, who was already on a yellow, made a very risky challenge on Elijah Martin, leaving him rolling in pain. The entire crowd clearly thought Luna deserved a red card, but the referee thought otherwise and instead gave Luna a talking to.
After the challenge, every time Luna would touch the ball, he would receive jeers and boos from the crowd.
The first highlight of the half for both sides came from a fantastic double save by the Loyal defense in the 58th minute. The first save came by Koke Vegas when the El Paso attacker broke past the Loyal backline. The second save came from Collin Martin in the middle of the box with Vegas out of goal. The last attempt of the sequence went just wide of goal and out for a goal kick.
For the Loyal’s third goal of the game, 66 minutes in, Amang raced into El Paso’s box and placed the ball wonderfully in the bottom right corner.
After scoring and running half the length of the pitch to celebrate, Amang picked up a little injury and was substituted out for Jack Blake once play resumed.
In the 87th minute, El Paso finally got another when Aaron Gomez put the ball in the back of the net off a deflection from Grant Stoneman.
The Loyal had three nervy minutes left to hold onto their lead, along with four more minutes of extra time.
El Paso almost scored their equalizer with seconds to go, but Vegas made a fine save to deny them.
In the end, after some scary moments,
Despite not dominating the stat sheet, the Loyal looked pretty strong favorites from the start.
El Paso outshot the Loyal 15-10 and had three more corners than the Loyal’s two.
Even with the win, Donovan was disappointed with the way the Loyal played in the second half.
“I was disappointed in the last 30 minutes of the game. We can make every excuse, but good teams don’t do that. We still have a way to go, but the upside is that we’re getting points while we’re not playing perfect.”
Morgan’s player of the match
Sunday’s player of the match is a joint award.
Although Nick Moon was the one who ended with the actual man of the match award.
Tumi Moshobane, Alejandro Guido, and Thomas Amang were all equally instrumental parts of this Loyal win.
Tumi and Guido looked like they had six lungs each. Both of them would drop all the way back on defense just to sprint up the field to counter-attack seconds later.
Also, as usual, Tumi and Amang’s finishing was superb.
When this offense is firing, there’s always the potential for plenty of goals and some attractive football.
Next, the Loyal will take part in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, April 6, with a second-round matchup against Albion San Diego.
“We’re really excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.,” Donovan said. “This is a tough week playing three games in six days, so we’re going to need everyone ready to contribute all week.”