All you need to know before the Loyal play in their first preseason match on Feb. 5
The season is approaching quickly, but first, the San Diego Loyal will play in five preseason matches before the March 12 opener. Two of the five will be at home in Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego. One will be at the San Diego State campus, and the other two will be at the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center.
These matches will be a great mixture of training and experience for the young soccer club. The Loyal are preparing for their third season in the USL Championship. Last season ended in the first round of the playoffs with a loss to San Antonio FC 2-0. That was a tough loss for a team that played very well all season long. They fought hard and had their moments but ultimately couldn’t get past an experienced team. Manager Landon Donovan returns for his third season as the gaffer and has already brought in more experienced players to the club.
Before we get into what to expect from the roster, here is the 2022 preseason schedule:
2022 Preseason Match Schedule:
Feb. 5 – New Mexico United // Central Valley Fuego FC // @CVEATC // TBD
Feb. 12 – Vancouver Whitecaps FC // @Torero Stadium // 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 19 – Club Tijuana Xolos // @Torero Stadium // 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 26 – LA Force // @CVEATC // TBD
March 5 – San Diego State University // @SDSU // 6:30 p.m.
How The Loyal Are Preparing For Preseason
There is a lot to look forward to before the regular season kicks off on March 12. Donovan looked back at the 2021 season and figured out what he needed to improve on and recalibrate going into this season.
The Loyal tied for 12th in the USL in team goals with 51 along with FC Tulsa and Birmingham Legion FC. Most of their production came from a group of six players. Tumi Moshobane led the team with ten goals in 31 appearances, while a lot of their matches were low-scoring affairs. One thing the Loyal hope to improve on going into this season is to have more consistency from their top goal-scorers and to see more players get involved. San Diego did a great job of controlling most of their matches and playing how they wanted to play, however. It will be intriguing to see how Donovan plans to attack the opponents in 2022.
San Diego is returning 11 players for 2022 while adding a bunch of fresh talent. You can read about the new signings here.
The 11 returning players all played a huge role in the Loyal’s success in 2021. Reaching the playoffs in what many considered was the toughest division in the USL is a great accomplishment, especially in just the second season as a club. The Pacific Division saw one of the toughest teams in the entire league (Phoenix Rising) get eliminated in the first round with the Loyal. Orange County SC defeated the Oakland Roots in the second round of the playoffs and eventually found their way to becoming the USL Champs with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With the divisions eliminated for this season, the Loyal will get a chance to play more teams and many for the first time.
The midfield is seeing Alejandro Guido, Charlie Adams, and Collin Martin back to control the central part of the pitch. In the attack, Tumi Moshobane and Jack Blake return to try and continue their goal-scoring surge. In the defensive third, Grant Stoneman, Elijah Martin, and Jack Metcalf all come back to try and stop the opponents from celebrating. The chemistry between those players can only be getting better.
To help with the goal-scoring improvements, San Diego brought in Kyle Vassell, who has proven to score goals in his career. The 28-year-old striker has 67 professional goals dating back to 2010. He’s still in the prime of his career and can seriously help the Loyal contend for a title in 2022.
Every defender in the league just said a bad word. This is what Kyle Vassell has in his locker! 😤 pic.twitter.com/zRwAa6kWU3
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) January 17, 2022
What To Expect During The Preseason
The preseason will be a good test for Donovan’s club as the season approaches in just over a month. Expect Donovan to try out new formations each match and test out different lineups. With a lot of new talent and returning talent, now is the time to really dial in on chemistry. These players will be playing with each other for the very first time. It’s crucial that they get familiar with each other and understand their skillsets.
These five matches won’t be anything super serious, although it should be fun to see the Loyal play another MLS opponent in Vancouver Whitecaps FC. San Diego hosted FC Dallas in 2019 for their very first action against a different opponent. They will also be facing Club Tijuana Xolos for the second time. The Loyal faced them last year in an exhibition match where the Xolos ended with a 1-0 victory. Those two matches will be great experience for the Loyal, and we will likely see a majority of the potential starters play in those matches. The matches against New Mexico United and SDSU will likely see players who are fighting to make the final roster. Either way, we will be witnessing some great soccer as the winter season turns into spring.
Players To Watch
Some players to keep an eye out for this preseason are Jack Metcalf, Koke Vegas, Kyle Adams, and Nick Moon.
Starting with Metcalf, he is set to return to the team after missing the second half of the 2021 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He was a major part of their early success in the fullback position, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to play with the same aggressiveness as he did the past two seasons. Metcalf was always the go-to guy for corner kicks on his half of the field because of his smooth crossing ability.
Koke Vegas comes into to San Diego ready to compete for the starting keeper spot. He, alongside Austin Guerrero, should make for a battle this preseason. Guerrero comes in as the favorite to earn the spot once again, but the Spanish keeper has proven to get the job done in his career.
“Koke is a tremendously talented young goalkeeper with a lot of high-level games under his belt already,” Donovan said. “His experience playing in La Liga will help our club on and off the field and we are excited to add him to our team.”
Kyle Adams started 27 matches for the Real Monarchs last season. The defender had 42 interceptions in 2021 and was the captain for Rio Grande Valley FC in 2018-19. Adams brings veteran leadership and presence to the Loyal as one of the top defenders in the USL. Adams played at San Diego State from 2015-17. He should quickly make his mark early for the Loyal, and we should see it this preseason.
Lastly, Nick Moon is now on the Loyal as one of the most prolific players in the entire USL. He can play multiple positions and has been the reason for a majority of his team’s wins in his career. It will be exciting to see how Donovan utilizes Moon and how he fills him in different positions each match.
Cue the smoke! Nick moon is bringing some danger to Torero Stadium. 🏟💨 pic.twitter.com/cns6iKogQu
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) January 7, 2022
Of course, there is a lot to pay attention to during a preseason as many things are constantly changing or improving. There are many different names that are worth keeping an eye out for, but those mentioned above should be ones that stand out. The roster looks very talented as it prepares to play in its third season in the USL Championship.