San Diego Loyal rallied late Saturday night, but it was not enough in a 3-1 USL Championship soccer loss against visiting Reno 1868 FC at Torero Stadium.
“Overall I am happy with the performance in the second half,” said Loyal coach Landon Donovan, “but we still have to make the plays that count.”
Donovan, calling the game “frustrating,” expressed disappointment in the developing team’s play in the first half, in which Reno largely kept the ball of its side of the pitch.
“To (Reno’s) credit,” Donovan said, “they played really well in the first half. We figured some things out in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.”
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The Loyal’s lone highlight was Carlos Alvarez sneaking a ball past Reno goalkeeper Ben Beaury for his first score with Donovan’s team. But the midfielder’s goal was not enough against the team leading the Group A standings.
Reno took a 1-0 lead when Foster Langsdorf scores in the 25th minute off a rolling cross into the penalty area from Tucker Bone.
The scoring play came after Loyal was threatening with fluid ball movement on Reno’s side of the pitch but instead was stopped with an offside call. Reno then took the ball through the left side of the field and Bone helped set up Langsdorf’s score.
Reno (6-2-0, 18 points) used quick plays and counters that went through Coery Hertzog and Christiano Francois on the left side of the field. Fresno controlled possession in the first half and out-shot SD Loyal 21-3, forcing Austin Guerrero to make six saves early on in his debut with his hometown team.
It continued through the later part of the half as Loyal could not get out of its own side of the field or find steady possession. Reno continued to fire as Guerrero made more saves against his former team.
Reno came in as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won four out of its past five games. San Diego (3-4-2, 11 points) had not won a game since July 25.
Donovan’s team came out trying to create some chances and keep the ball some more early in the second half. It was able to create a scoring chance when Collin Martin fired a shot to the right post, but it was just wide off an Alvarez pass.
Reno continued to counter, even getting a shot that Guerrero had to slap away with one hand to make a save on a quick run. The Nevada team took advantage of a blocked Loyal shot that lead to a long pass by Reno. It left the ball rolling just outside the Loyal penalty box.
Guerrero came out to clear the ball, but Reno regained possession. Bone, who assisted on the visitor’s first goal, was quick to fire a volley into the San Diego net, catching Guerrero trying to make it back to his line.
Loyal answered that score with Alvarez’s shot past Beaury to cut the lead to 2-1 in the 66th minute. Alvarez took a ball near the middle of the penalty box, turned and fired a low-right-footed shot inside the right post.
Alvarez’s goal was the Loyal’s first in nearly a month. (The previous was in the 65th minute of its July 25 match at home against Las Vegas Lights.) Alvarez nearly scored again in the 72nd minute, but his shot went straight to Beaury.
Instead, it was Aidan Apodaca scoring again for Reno on a one-on-one run. Apodaca sent in a rolling shot across his body to the left as Guerrero, Loyal goalkeeper, chased him down and tried to close his angle in the 85th minute. It didn’t work.
SD Loyal didn’t sit back before Apodaca’s goal. Beaury also saw a Francis Atuahene cross roll near the goal line but Jack Metcalf couldn’t get to it in the 75th minute. Second-half sub Ashley Nazira also created a few chances his most dangerous, a blast that zipped just right of the right post. Loyal continued to push the ball up and tried to head into goal to no avail.
San Diego will now head north to face Orange County on Saturday at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine.
Looking ahead, Donovan said, “There are no easy matches… It’s a war every week. We just have to fix the problems. This is a process.”