San Diego Loyal SC season preview

Credit: SD Loyal

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Credit: SD Loyal

What to expect before the Loyal take the field for their first preseason match on March 13

The San Diego Loyal put together a competitive roster after having a frenzy of an offseason. Returning to the Loyal are 12 players who helped jump start the franchise last season. The roster is set with 19 footballers looking to bring a championship to the city of San Diego.

The current “Team 1” roster as it stands now:

Goalkeepers (3): Trey Muse (on loan from Seattle Sounders FC), Austin Guerrero, Antony Siaha

Defenders (7): Elijah Martin, Jack Metcalf, Grant Stoneman, Sal Zizzo, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Ebenezer Ackon, Jordan Chavez

Midfielders (6): Charlie Adams, Collin Martin, Tumi Moshobane, Jack Blake, Morgan Hackworth, Alejandro Guido

Forwards (3): Corey Hertzog, Ben Spencer, Niki Jackson

The players reported to the training facility in Chula Vista on March 8th. Manager Landon Donovan and the rest of the team are thrilled to be back in action.

“We’ve been waiting many months to get back on the field and start the process towards having a successful sophomore season,” Donovan said. “We are extremely excited to see all the familiar faces that helped us build Team 1 and are looking forward to integrating our new additions. 2021 will prove to be a fantastic year for San Diegans and San Diego Loyal and we can’t wait to get started!”

On the 1st of March, the USL Championship released the 2021 preseason schedule. The Loyal will play in six preseason matches before the May 1 regular season start date. Four will be played at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista where the Loyal train, while the other two MLS matches will be played in Carson, CA.

March 13 – California United Strikers FC at 10:00 am (Chula Vista)

March 20 – LA Galaxy at 12:00 pm (Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, CA)

March 27 – Opponent TBD (Chula Vista)

April 3 – New Mexico United at 12:00 pm (Chula Vista)

April 11 – Seattle Sounders at 12:00 pm (Carson, CA)

April 17 – Cal State Fullerton at 3:00 pm (Chula Vista)

The regular season is rapidly approaching with less than two months to go. The schedule is yet to be released but the USL Championship announced the Loyal will play in the Pacific Division. The Pacific Division is stacked with eight competitive clubs, featuring: SD Loyal SC, Oakland Roots SC, Sacramento Republic FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, LA Galaxy II, Phoenix Rising FC, Orange County FC, and Tacoma Defiance. There will be 32 matches over a 27-week period. Each team in the Pacific Division will play each other a total of four times (2 home – 2 away), with the last four matches against teams from other conferences. So, 28 of the matches will be against familiar opponents throughout the season. The home matches will be played at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego.

How has the Loyal prepared for their second season in San Diego?

Credit: SD Loyal

Coach Donovan and the Loyal conducted two open tryouts over the past month. The plan was to scout the local talent and choose one standout player. Donovan and the rest of the coaching staff are still figuring out who that player will be, but expect the announcement to release during training camp. The Loyal signed keeper Austin Guerrero after the tryouts last season. Donovan was pleased with what he saw again this year.

“I was appreciative of how serious everyone takes it,” Donovan said. “These guys are taking a chance on themselves. It’s not easy to come out and showcase your talent when there are 299 others doing the same.”

As for the current roster, Donovan stressed that the returning players will have to step up and take control during training camp. There will be 12 familiar faces, and as of now, seven new faces.

“What’s important to us is the guys who were here last year need to quickly pick up where they left off,” Donovan said. “The guys who are new here need to learn quickly what it takes to be a part of this club in a meaningful way. The 12 guys who are coming back know very clearly what is expected of them from a culture stand point. We are more than just a soccer team and they know what is expected on the field.”

What makes this roster so talented?

Donovan is about winning. Nothing else matters unless his team is holding the trophy at the end of the season. It’s no surprise that he managed to recruit some of the top talent in the nation, as Donovan made quite the name for himself during his time as a professional footballer. The first inaugural season went as planned even with the shutdown halfway through the season due to covid-19. The Loyal pushed for a playoff spot but just missed the postseason by a few points.

Here are some facts about a few of the returning players and the new talent on the roster.

Alejandro Guido – Guido played in five matches for the Loyal in 2020 after arriving on loan from LAFC. He scored two goals and assisted on two as well. Guido is a Chula Vista native and will remain under contract through the 2021 season. The 26 year old also has stints with Club Tijuana of Liga MX. Guido should be one of the top goal scorers for the Loyal in 2021.

Corey Hertzog – If the USL Championship had an MVP Award for the past two seasons, Hertzog would be one fo the favorites to win. Hertzog is a true goal-scoring threat. The Pennsylvania native kicked in 23 goals in 50 appearances during the 2019-2020 campaign. He also scored 27 goals in 62 appearances from 2016-2017, earning him All-League 2nd Team honors. I expect him to lead the Loyal in scoring for the 2021 season.

Niki Jackson – The Colorado Rapids selected Jackson with the 73rd overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. He scored during his debut but was later loaned out to the USL Championship. Jackson scored 41 collegiate goals over his career at Grand Canyon University and earned the recognition as the 2017 WAC Offensive Player of the Year. 2021 could be a breakout season for Jackson.

Jack Blake – Blake is one of the USL’s top goal-scoring midfielders. Blake scored nine goals in 38 appearances for the Real Monarchs between 2019-2020. Blake is an England native who has appeared for a few other USL clubs.

Trey Muse – The 21-year-old keeper is on loan from the Seattle Sounders FC. Muse led the NCAA in goals against average (0.26), shutouts (18) and save percentage (90.3 percent). In his sophomore season as part of the Big Ten Championship team, he was named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the year and was a MAC Hermann semifinalist.

Charlie Adams – The English footballer scored the first goal in Loyal history last season in the inaugural match against Las Vegas Lights FC. Adams started out playing in England, and since then has played a majority of his career in the USL Championship.

Additional Notes:

The Loyal announced Wednesday, March 10 that they have signed goalkeeper Antony Siaha to a contract through the 2021 season. The 6-foot-6 signee has a chance to compete for a starting job and has the ability to be a star. Siaha played for 1904 FC in San Diego for the NISA League, as well as the San Diego Soccers in the MASL League. Siaha is the tallest goalkeeper in MASL history.

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