Playoff chances of the San Diego Loyal dimmed Wednesday after walking away with a 1-1 soccer tie against host LA Galaxy II in USL Championship play.
Using closing minutes to run out the clock rather than take shots for an insurance goal, the Loyal gained only one point toward group standings, where the top two advance to the playoffs.
Head coach Landon Donovan this week had stressed the importance of a win in their second to last game of the season, which was played at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Alex Alvarado, 17, scored for “Los Dos” in stoppage time — after 90 minutes of regulation — to tie the match and save a point for the home side. Both teams are vying for the second-place spot in the Group B standings as the regular season winds down.
San Diego (6-4-5, 23 points) appeared to be headed to three points and be in a prime position to reach the USL Championship playoffs but Alvarado sent in his header off a long cross from Mauricio Cuevas from right to left. LA Galaxy II took advantage of extra space after Loyal defender Elijah Martin was sent off for a second yellow card a few moments before Alvarado’s score.
The LA Galaxy II scoring play came off Cuevas’ run to the end line, keeping the ball alive before sending the cross to a wide open Alvarado at the far post. SD Loyal had mostly controlled the match after scoring late in the first half.
Rubio Rubin scored in the 42nd minute. He converted a penalty kick burying his shot to the left of LA Galaxy II goalkeeper Abraham Romero.
Rubin has now scored five times since signing with the Loyal Sept. 1. He has four goals in his past two matches, including a hat trick in his previous game against Phoenix Rising last weekend. He also scored the last time these two teams met during a 3-0 Loyal win Sept. 9.
Wednesday night, it was a slow start to the match as both teams tried to figure out each other’s style and tried to implement a rhythm. LA was the first to take some shots early on. Adrian Vera was the first to send a shot. It came from about 20 yards out straight into Austin Guerrero’s hands. Guerrero finished with a cleansheet as he filled in for starter Jon Kempin who was out with a groin injury.
The Loyal, unbeaten in its last four games, began to open up the midfield after the first 20 minutes of the game and sent its lines up. Miguel Berry tried a shot from the right side but Romero dove out to block it. SD Loyal insisted when Alejandro Guido charged the net and got a header off a cross from right to left but his shot went just wide of the left post.
But it wasn’t until Guido fed Charlie Adams with a filtered pass into the left side of the penalty box in the 41st minute. Adams made the run after the ball but he was taken down and “Los Dos” was whistled for the penalty kick.
Rubin converted it a minute later, burying the shot to the left of Romero. Loyal didn’t let off the attack and nearly score again before halftime. Miguel Berry nearly floated a shot over Romero and a defender but it was just high over the crossbar and an open net.
San Diego continued to control possession for most of the second half of the match that was rescheduled from July 29. The original date was postponed due to LA players testing positive for COVID-19.
Donovan’s team returns home for the regular season finale. The Loyal will host first-place Phoenix Rising on Wednesday, Sept 30.
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