Edward Delgado, goalkeeper for the Las Vegas Lights, does a flip after leaping to block a goal attempt. Photo by Chris Stone

It wasn’t the birthday present soccer legend Landon Donovan wanted, but the coach of the San Diego Loyal got a point out of the team’s debut game in USL Championship league play.

San Diego’s Charlie Adams scored in the 15th minute after a surprise 35-yard goal from Las Vegas Lights’ Junior Burgos in the fourth minute at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium, which rocked with The Locals fan club providing a steady drum beat.

An announced “sellout” crowd of 6,100 saw a 1-1 game with exciting saves in the second half. ESPN aired the match nationally as its Game of the Week.

Donovan saluted Man of the Match Burgos — “that might have been goal of the year” — but was less thrilled with his team’s play.

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“I guess we can be better, and the guys know that,” he said. “Probably a little excited, and we never really got control of the game, and we expected to. … So we have a lot to learn.”

Donovan, answering some reporter questions in fluent Spanish, called his new team young and the debut a “good learning experience.”

“Give a lot of credit to Vegas,” he said. “They played really well. They did exactly what they needed to do. … In the end, every point matters. So it could have been worse.”

Adams, the 25-year-old midfielder from England who made the Loyal’s debut score, said the Lights — coached by World Cup veteran and Aztec Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda — slowed things down.

“We wanted to play a tempo, and they kind of stopped us,” he said. “Our press didn’t really work that much because they weren’t interested really. … Our counterpress didn’t really work because they didn’t  try to play out of that.”

Donovan, who turned 38 on Wednesday, was featured this week in a Sports Illustrated story that noted his part ownership of the club.

“This is the sport I love in my new home town, so it just made a lot of sense to actually be invested,” he told Brian Strauss of SI. “One thing that’s different about soccer is that soccer fans genuinely feel that they own the club. And they do. You want to have skin in the game, and when you do you treat it differently. If I owned Starbucks stock, I’m going to the Starbucks every day — not Coffee Bean.”

Donovan said at halftime he talked through a few tactical things.

“But we didn’t do a good enough job tonight of just winning some individual duels, of being more calm when they had the ball,” he said. “Those are little things that we’re usually good at, but we weren’t tonight. And sometimes in this game you have a night like that.”

Still, Donovan said he was happy for Adams to get the team on the scoreboard, “and I just wish he could have built  a little bit on that.”

He also credited Loyal goalkeeper Jake Fenlason, who “kept us in the game, actually, at certain points. We gotta be grateful.”

Declaring himself proud to be a San Diegan, Donovan said he was just “disappointed we couldn’t give them a better show. That’s the hard part for, me. They deserve better than that. We’ll get better. It’s a long season.”

He made a pitch for another good turnout.

“San Diego showed up for their team. And we’ll be back here next weekend,” hosting the Rio Grande Valley Toros on Saturday after traveling to Tacoma on Wednesday for a match with the Defiance. “We need that energy.”

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