San Diego Loyal four-game home win streak ends after loss to El Paso

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

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Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

The San Diego Loyal (4-1-2) were in for a dogfight on Saturday, April 29, when El Paso Locomotive FC (3-3-1) came into town.

The Loyal were without their leading scorer, forward Evan Conway, who pulled out injured in warmup, so goals were scarce this game. 

The El Paso Locos came into Torero and stole a 2-1 victory over the Loyal, ending San Diego’s streak of four-straight home wins. “Even though we weren’t as sharp, I think we should’ve had the win,” head coach Nate Miller said.

The first half was an energetic back-and-forth between two teams that attacked with very opposite styles. 

El Paso always look dangerous on the counter-attack, while San Diego looked to break down its opposition with patience and precise passing. “This one was pretty much like a transition game,” forward Tumi Moshobane said. “I felt like we failed to control the game as we like normally like to.”

The yellow cars were brought out early, with one player from either team picking up one before the 10th minute. Not long after the 10th minute, the first goal was scored.

El Paso constantly looked to target the left side of San Diego’s defense, where center-back Kyle Adams often sat isolated. An early opportunity down that flank saw El Paso forward Ricardo Zacarias whip a heater across the box; that attempt took a deflection and lobbed over Koke Vegas in goal to give El Paso the lead.

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

In the 21st minute, San Diego came as close as they had been all game. Off a free kick, the ball was headered off the post before forward Ronaldo Damus saw his rebounded shot cleared off the goalline.

Damus got another attempt later in the half but mistimed his touch in front of the goal.

The Loyal went into halftime down one with their home winning streak at risk, so their energy had to rise if they wanted to earn a result.

To begin with, the pace of the second half mirrored the first. It was so intense even the referee couldn’t keep up, pausing the game 10 minutes into the half to catch her breath. In the 60th minute, San Diego finally earned its break as Moshobane evened up the score following countless pressure. Moshobane received the ball just outside the box and fainted past two defenders before slotting the ball into the bottom left corner. “I saw space open up in the middle, so I opted to attack the space,” Moshobane said. “It opened up for, and I scored it.”

But just as the momentum looked as if it had switched, El Paso regained its lead four minutes later with a beautiful one-two finished by midfielder Denys Kostyshyn.

The pace of the game began to simmer down as it progressed. Second half introduction, midfielder Collin Martin played a big part in that process, controlling the center of the pitch since his arrival.

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“He sped the pace up, and we were able to switch quickly,” Miller said. “He was going a good job attracting a lot of midfielders to him, provoking and creating a lot of space for our wide players.”

With the game coming to a close, it was only San Diego who pushed the initiative to score as El Paso began to drop deeper and deeper in defense.

Off a corner in the six minutes of extra time, San Diego came excruciatingly close to an equalizer as Nick Moon saw his shot deflect just wide of the post. But too little too late as the Locos held onto defeat San Diego 2-1 at Torero Stadium.

Next, the Loyal will take on Orange County SC in Los Angeles on Saturday, Mar. 6, at 7:00 p.m.

“Our group is so experienced, we’re together, and we’re heading in the right direction,” Miller said. “It’s not hard to get up for Orange County, so we’ll be ready for it. 

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