From the 14th minute, a win for the San Diego Loyal seemed possible Saturday night. In the 71st minute, with another goal, hopes were rising for the USL soccer team.
But it wasn’t to be.
In the last seven minutes of the match against host Phoenix Rising FC, the Loyal had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
That dried up their chances of getting a first win on the road amid mid-90-degree weather in front of a crowd of 9,000.
San Diego won its first match last Saturday in front of a hometown crowd after losing the first four on the road.
Hopes for this win rested on goals by Miguel Berry and Jack Blake for manager Landon Donovan’s team.
SD Loyal (1-4-1, 4 points) led 2-0 with only six minutes of stoppage time to play. The seventh minute of added time provided just enough time for Phoenix Rising (4-2-1, 13 points) to score a pair of goals and salvage a point.
Joseph Calistri of Rising tied the game with a shot from the right side off one of a series of late consecutive corner kicks by the home team. Santi Moar cut the SD Loyal lead in half when he scored in extra time.
The turn of events came after Donovan’s team came out attacking, putting pressure on Phoenix, which came into the match as the Pacific Division leader.
“We want more. And we know that we could be better,” Donovan said.
“We were very, very good for most of the match, not perfect but very good,” said the soccer legend said. “A little disappointing at the end to give up the goals, of course. But still proud of the overall effort and I look at performance always more than I look at the results.”
Donovan concluded: “Obviously, we want to win games, but that was a really good performance against the best team in the league at their place.”
Berry, who came on loan to SD Loyal last week, didn’t waste his first chance at goal. The 6-foot-3 striker sent the ball in between two defenders as he entered the penalty box from the right.
It was Berry’s first goal with SD Loyal this season.
Blake added to the scoring and sent in his second goal of the season. He fired the ball into the right corner of the net, leaving goalkeeper Andre Rawls diving.
Phoenix did not have a shot on target until late in the game.
One of them was Moar’s goal.
Moar scored with a right-footed shot that beat SD Loyal goalkeeper Trey Muse. Moar, who has scored in every match this season, cut the lead when he took a ball while being wide open on the right side of the penalty box.
Moar had several chances earlier in the match but couldn’t get his shots on target.
Adeseyi Adekoya nearly scored for the home side in the 67th minute.
Calistri rushed in wide open from the left side and struck the ball to beat Muse to tie the match.
But Donovan said his team can learn from the result and not be disappointed.
“The confidence to play this way. we know how to beat Phoenix.” Donovan said. “We have proven over the last 18 months. (We’ve proven) that we are almost the only team in this league that knows how to beat them consistently and that’s powerful. We need that.
“I’m absolutely proud of the performance and there’s no time to be upset. We just have to get going because we play again Wednesday (June 9 at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine).”
On Wednesday, the team announced the acquisition of defender Callum Montgomery on loan from Minnesota United FC.