San Diego Loyal lose in heartbreaker to Phoenix Rising 4-3

Credit: Don Da Mars/EVT

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Credit: Don Da Mars/EVT

The San Diego Loyal have shown heart over the last four seasons. They are an embodiment of a professional soccer club. Since Day 1, the Loyal have proved that they are more than just a soccer team in San Diego.

The emotions are very high right now. Landon Donovan, Andrew Vassiliadis, Ricardo Campos, and head coach Nate Miller had a vision. What ended up happening was more than just a vision.

“The learning is what brings this to life,” Donovan said. “What we all built together was very unique. I have never seen anything like it in this game. I’m not sure it will ever exist again. It’s sad but I am also very grateful for everybody who brought this to life.”

The journey has ended. After a long campaign, the Loyal end the season in a heartbreaker. The team never quit and didn’t give up, and they played their asses off for over two hours of soccer. Down 3-2 in stoppage time, the Loyal evened the score as Ronaldo Damus scored a hat trick on a penalty kick.

I had never seen Torero Stadium as loud as it was in that moment.

First Half

The first 45 showcased a ton of action. It was quite the rollercoaster for both sides early on. San Diego connected with a goal very early as Damus nailed in the first of two goals in the half. This was a special goal for the Loyal. The very first postseason goal came in a beauty.

The advantage did not last. In the 19th minute, Adrian Perez grabbed the kit of a Phoenix player, resulting in a penalty try for Phoenix. Panos Armenakas nailed in the penalty and evened the score.

Just five minutes later, San Diego was on the counterattack. Evan Conway broke away and floated a nice cross to Damus, waiting in the box for another goal. The ball came directly at him, and he snuck the ball past Rising keeper Rocco Rios Novo.

Right before the half, Phoenix leveled the game. However, this was on the Loyal. Keeper Koke Vegas and defender Grant Stoneman miscommunicated on a Rising chance, resulting in the ball going under Vegas’ legs. Phoenix leveled the match when San Diego should have taken lead into the break. That moment really hurt the Loyal.

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Second Half (+ Stoppage Time)

The second half was rough for San Diego at the start. Phoenix scored the go-ahead goal in the 51st minute and held on to that advantage almost all the way to the end.

As said many times before. The Loyal do not quit. They kept fighting and eventually earned a penalty kick in the 90+7 minute. Damus set his mark and drilled in the stoppage time equalizer.

Even though the season is over, the addition of Damus to this club changed everything. His ability to score was the sole reason why SD was in the position they were in.

Credit: Don Da Mars/EVT

As extra time started, it seemed as if the Loyal would find a way to win with the electricity flowing through Torero Stadium. However, that was just not the case. They created chances, and ultimately, the final chance ended up hurting them. Camden Riley was looking for the winner and lost possession. As a result, Phoenix drove down the field and scored the winner with less than a minute left until penalty kicks.

A truly heartbreaking loss for the Loyal. It’s sad that it had to end this way.

“This was not how this was supposed to end,” Miller said. “We had full belief tonight, and I thought we played a great game. With the circumstances with how we lost that match, I’m heartbroken. This is not how you want there whole journey to end. Speaking for the group, we are heartbroken, shocked, and I am sorry.”

Coach Miller has absolutely nothing to be sorry for. He and his team were more than just a soccer club in San Diego. They meant so much to the community, and it really is a damn shame that it has to end this way.

It was an honor and privilege to cover this team for you all.

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