San Diego Loyal SC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Torero Stadium – USD
Sunday, October 22 at 7:00 pm
TV: ESPN+, CW Network
The 2023 USL Championship Playoffs are upon us!
The San Diego Loyal hosts long-time rivals Phoenix Rising FC for a highly anticipated playoff matchup Sunday night.
The emotions will undoubtedly be high. This could be the final match we ever witnessed for the beloved soccer club. However, the players must push aside their emotions to go out there and put on a show in front of the The Locals and Loyal supporters.
Rivals collide! 💥
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) October 21, 2023
Because San Diego finished as the 3-seed in the Western Conference, they can potentially host another playoff match if they were to beat Phoenix. There could be more soccer played at Torero Stadium past this weekend. Although, that isn’t the focus. The focus is winning their very first playoff match, which has yet to be done in the Loyal’s history.
In both playoff matchups, San Diego would end up losing to San Antonio FC (2021) and Oakland Roots SC (2022). Now, the Loyal faces a rival that has seen lots of drama over the four years as a soccer club. The last time these two teams met, they finished in a 2-2 draw. The first battle of the season, the Loyal found a way to win 3-0 at Torero Stadium. In fact, the last time Phoenix beat SD was back in 2021, and they did it at home.
The Rising haven’t won a match since September 19, when they took down Detroit City FC 5-0. Since then, it’s been a struggle for them. They have lost two straight and have scored just four goals in their last five matches.
With the way the Loyal have been defending lately, they should feel good about this first-round matchup. Although Phoenix knows this team very well, with multiple intense matchups in the past.
One player to keep an eye on for this game is Ronaldo Damus. The striker leads the team in scoring with 12 goals in 31 appearances. Adrian Perez and Evan Conway are tied with ten each, which provides a dynamic scoring attack for San Diego. Those three give opposing defenders nightmares, and they all should player a major role on Sunday night. Tumi Moshobane is another elite scorer with eight goals on the season. Moshobane has appeared in every single match for the Loyal this season as the team’s Iron Man.
Despite not scoring well lately, Phoenix contains two of the top offensive players in the USL Championship. Daniel Trejo and Manuel Arteaga have combined to score 32 goals this year. Dariusz Formella has chipped in 10 as well, so they can certainly score goals. If San Diego can find a way to contain those three, then they will be in a position to win this game.
Koke Vegas finished the regular season 12th in the league with 72 saves. Vegas must be on his game to keep Phoenix from getting into any kind of rhythm. Rocco Rios Novo finished 2nd in the USL with 102 saves on the season for Phoenix.
Anything can happen on in this matchup. I know one thing if for sure, and that the Loyal will go out there and give it their all. They have been doing that since Day 1, and they want the USL Championship trophy more than anything.
Torero Stadium will be electric all night long. Sunday night has a chance to be a very special night in San Diego.
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.