San Diego Loyal SC fall to Phoenix Rising 4-1 in opener

Credit: SD Loyal

Credit: SD Loyal

San Diego starts the season with a 4-1 loss against the 2020 Western Conference Champions, Phoenix Rising. Despite the loss, goalkeeper Trey Muse performed well in his Loyal debut.

The 2021 USL Championship season is upon us.

The San Diego Loyal traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to take on the Rising, one of the toughest squads in the USL. There were major aspirations for this matchup as these two clubs went head-to-head multiple times last season in dramatic fashion. Both teams look different heading into the 2021 season, but the Loyal showcased a ton of new talent Friday night.

Manager Landon Donovan and the Loyal started in a 4-4-2 formation with Trey Muse in goal. Muse, along with five other starters, debuted for the Loyal in the loss. Defender Josh Yaro started for San Diego just one day after signing his contract.

For the Rising, it was an initial 4-3-3 formation with two-time USL Championship MVP Solomon Asante at forward. The Loyal defenders definitely felt his presence in the matchup.

Shortly after kickoff, Muse saved a tough shot early on in the 13th minute and again two minutes later that saved a struggling defense for the Loyal.

If not for Muse’s length, the Rising were looking at a one-or-two goal advantage just a quarter-hour into the match.

The Rising’s offense and momentum was just too strong for the Loyal defense in the first half. In the 37th minute, Jon Bakero found the back of the net off the deflection, and Phoenix scored their first goal of the season. That goal comes off their 12th shot of the match, putting the San Diego defenders through major stress.

The Loyal went into the break trailing, but Donovan saw good signs in the first half.

10 minutes into the second half, the Rising struck once again as Moar put one past Muse to up the score 2-0. The atmosphere in the new Phoenix stadium stayed electric all night as the Rising put a dent into the lead.

The first goal of the season for San Diego arrived in the 64th minute by forward Ben Spencer, just minutes after coming onto the pitch.

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Before the Loyal could even get another touch on the ball, the Rising struck again three minutes later to add to the lead, 3-1. Another goal in the 80th minute by Kevon Lambert capped off a 4-1 victory for the 2020 Western Conference Champions.

The first match is in the books. A 4-1 loss usually looks bad, but there were positives to look forward to. This was the first real game this team as played together. Six players debuted for the Loyal, and some of them played really well. Muse proved he will be one of the top young goalies in the USL with eight saves, keeping them in the game most of the night.


The Loyal found a way to control most of the possession. A majority of the late minutes allowed the Loyal to end with 61% of the possession, trying to get back into the game. San Diego needs to improve on making the most of its chances. Just three shot attempts won’t get it done. The Rising finished with 25 shot attempts as their offense showed no signs of slowing down.

The next matchup for San Diego is Thursday, May 6th at 5 pm against the Rio Grande Valley Toros. All matches can be seen on ESPN+.

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Chris Spiering
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.

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