The San Diego Loyal released their 2021 regular-season schedule on Tuesday, March 30, exactly one month shy of the season opener on April 30.
The schedule consists of 32 matches, with 16 of them coming at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego.
In total, 28 of the 32 matches will be against opponents from the newly aligned Pacific Division. The other four matchups will be against RGV FC Toros (May 6), Louisville FC (May 22), Real Monarchs SLC (August 7), and New Mexico United (October 17). The Pacific Division consists of eight teams: Phoenix Rising FC, Tacoma Defiance, Las Vegas Lights FC, Orange County SC, LA Galaxy II, Oakland Roots SC, Sacramento Republic FC, and of course, the San Diego Loyal SC.
The Loyal will hit the road and face Phoenix Rising FC on April 30th for a highly-anticipated matchup against what is considered the best team in the USL Championship. There is no better way to start a season than playing one of the elite teams because that can show manager Landon Donovan and the rest of the team where they stand against the rest of the league.
The home opener for the Loyal will have to wait until the end of May because the schedule has the Loyal traveling for their first four games of the season. Just like their 2020 inaugural match last season, the Las Vegas Lights FC will once again travel to Southern California and face the Loyal for San Diego’s home opener on May 29.
“It’s great to have a full season of games for our club,” Donovan said. “We look forward to continuing some rivalries and creating new ones. Can’t wait to see the best fans in the USL back in the stands at Torero!”
The Loyal are in the midst of training camp, preparing for their second season as a professional soccer club. Team 1, as well as other trialists fighting to earn a spot on the roster, participated in three preseason matches in the month of March. All the matches were closed to there public, but that didn’t stop the players from going out there and playing like it was a real game. Their latest matchup against NISA’s 1904 FC, who also represents San Diego, provided a ton of scoring from the Loyal.
“Playing a local team, the guys wanted to win,” Donovan said. “The game certainly meant more to both teams. Scoring is great. I’m not sure I’ve seen more scoring chances in a soccer game in my life. I think we keep progressing.”
The Loyal scored a total of nine goals in 2 scrimmages against 1904 FC, with some players scoring multiple times. Forwards Niki Jackson and Corey Hertzog both scored two goals apiece. San Diego native Sal Zizzo and newly signed Jack Blake also managed to put one in the back of the net.
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) March 28, 2021
The Loyal will play in three more preseason matches before the season starts.
April 3 – New Mexico United (USL) – Chula Vista
April 11 – Seattle Sounders (MLS) – Los Angeles
April 17 – Cal State Fullerton (NCAA) – Chula Vista
Preview of 2021 Opponents: Pacific Division
Phoenix Rising FC – Phoenix Rising FC is considered the best team in the USL Championship. They are the defending Western Conference title winners. If the 2020 Title Match wasn’t canceled due to Covid-19, the Rising would have been the favorite to take home the crown. Though the game didn’t happen, the rest of the league knows who has a target on their back and who doesn’t.
Phoenix now has a brand new 10,000-seat stadium that the Loyal will get to play in for the first time.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better opening game than to go on the road and play the best team in the league in their new stadium,” Donovan said. “We had three great matches with Phoenix last season and look forward to more exciting games this year.”
Returning for the Rising is one of the elite goal-scoring threats in the entire USL, Junior Flemmings. Flemmings led the team in scoring last season and will most likely repeat his performances from last season.
In the final matchup between the Loyal and the Rising last season, Flemmings made a homophobic remark toward Loyal’s Collin Martin just before halftime. The Loyal decided to take a stand and walked off the pitch before the start of the second half, and the match was ruled a forfeit for San Diego.
There will be three other matches against the Rising: June 5 (away), June 19 (home), and July 24 (home).
LA Galaxy II – The Galaxy II is another club with Championship aspirations. The matches between Galaxy II and Loyal last season were competitive and will look to fill the same shoes this season.
Also, in their final matchup last season, one of the players on Los Angeles yelled out a racist remark toward Loyal’s Elijah Martin at the end of the game. The Galaxy ended up scoring the tying goal with just minutes left in the match to earn the point and forced the Loyal out of playoff position.
Things got chippy between the two clubs, and so you can say the Loyal are excited about the matchup. The Loyal have circled LA on the schedule and play their new rival four times this season. June 12 (home), August 1 (away), September 5 (home), and October 2 (away).
Oakland Roots SC – The Oakland Roots are a brand new USL team just like the Loyal were last year. San Diego gets their first look at Oakland on June 29 at Torero Stadium. The other three matchups will be September 11 (away), September 22 (away), and October 24 (home), which is the final home match of the season.
Sacramento Republic FC – An interesting note about Sacramento Republic FC is current Loyal team President Warren Smith came from there. The 2014 USL Champions will head to San Diego on July 3rd for their first matchup against the Loyal. The other matchups will be August 28 (away), October 9 (home), and October 30 (away), which is the final game of the season.
RGV Toros FC – Rio Grande Valley will host San Diego for their first matchup together on May 6, the second match of the 2021 season for the Loyal.
Louisville City FC – The Loyal will travel east to take on the two-time USL Champions on May 22. This matchup is another early-season competition against one of the best teams in the USL. Prior to their first home match on the 30th, the Loyal will know exactly where they compete with the rest of the division after facing two tough opponents early on.
Real Monarchs SLC – San Diego will host Salt Lake City on August 7. This will be a great matchup for the Loyal toward the end of the season when the players are pleased to be playing against a team they could see in the playoffs. SLC are still the reigning USL Champions from 2019. Loyal’s Jack Blake was a member of the Monarchs during the 2019-2020 seasons.
New Mexico United – The final interconference matchup will be against a team they will also scrimmage against during preseason. The club was founded in 2018 and is still finding its mark in the league. New Mexico will travel to San Diego on October 17 for a key matchup toward the end of the 2021 season.
“I’m so excited for our fans.”
When talking about the May 29th Home Opener, our players couldn’t help but mention how special it’ll be for fans to be back in the stands. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/80hYuiwmd2
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) March 24, 2021
There is a lot to look forward to as a Loyal fan. Landon Donovan is putting this team together exactly how he wanted, and he’s doing it fast. This roster is stacked with talent, and the Loyal will be competing for a championship in 2021.