San Diego Loyal Soccer Club was stifled by last year’s league champions, Phoenix Rising, in the opening game of the 2021 USL Championship season Friday night.
Stemming further damage was Loyal goalkeeper Trey Muse, who made exceptional blocks of multiple goal attempts by host Phoenix.
But Rising found the net four times, once in the first half and three times in the second in their new Wild Horse Pass stadium in Chandler, Arizona, where attendance was at 50% capacity.
Temperatures in the desert ranged from upper to low 90s throughout the match.
ESPN2 announcers faulted Loyal’s back line for not assisting Muse during deflections that led to goals.
In the 39th minute, John Bakero scored on a deflection. In a similar fashion, in the 54th minute, Rising player Santiago “Santi” Moar reached the net on a deflection.
Shortly after coming into the match in the second half, San Diego’s Ben Spencer cut the lead in half in the 64th minute.
Spencer sent in a cross by Alejandro Guido intended for Jack Blake but it was deflected to Spencer on the pass. Spencer tapped it in from near the six-yard box for his first goal with SD Loyal.
But three minutes later, Aodhan Quinn scored for Phoenix. Quinn was a big offseason acquisition in December from Orange County Soccer Club.
Quinn scored with a shot from the left side after a pass by Moar gave him plenty of space. He took his shot from left to right past Muse into the right wall of the SD Loyal net.
Then in the 79th minute, Rising’s Kevon Lampert sent a low shot inside the right post and did a succession of gymnastic tumbling moves. That was the last score of the game.
ESPN2 announcers said the Loyal, with many new acquisitions, was “trying to find their way.”
They cited the team’s inability to make combination plays.
In the offseason, manager Landon Donovan and Loyal staff signed new players: goalkeepers Trey Muse (on loan) and Antony Siaha; defenders Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Ebenezer Ackon, Jordan Chavez and Joshua Yaro; and forwards Corey Hertzog and Niki Jackson.
Friday’s match pitted two teams involved in a player’s reputed homophobic slur last season.
A series of LGBTQ+ inclusivity efforts were announced Thursday by San Diego Loyal SC, the United Soccer League and Phoenix Rising FC ahead of Friday night’s match.
The Loyal’s next match will be Thursday against Rio Grande Valley FC.
The team’s home opener is 7 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego.
The Loyal’s first four games are away games.