Despite an “almost flawless” performance, one mistake by San Diego Loyal spelled its first home loss in USL Championship play.
The 1-0 win Saturday by first-place Phoenix Rising snapped a nine-match unbeaten streak of the local team at USD’s Torero Stadium. The loss moves the Loyal from second place to third place in the Pacific Division.
Phoenix’s James Musa sent in the only goal in the 9th minute of the Week 14 match.
Phoenix took the 1-0 lead when James Musa sent in a loose ball from near the goal line after a trio of Loyal defenders could not clear it.
“You have to be ready to defend on set pieces to win the game,” said SD Loyal captain Charlie Adams about the play that led to Phoenix’s goal. “We defended the counterattack, but we didn’t defend the set pieces.”
Head coach Landon Donovan said: “The performance was almost flawless. We didn’t start the game well, but after that we were very good.”
This was the fourth and final meeting of Phoenix and San Diego this season in regular play. The Loyal lost to Phoenix on April 30, tied on June 5 and beat Phoenix on June 19.
Phoenix Rising FC has been atop the Pacific Division table for most of the season.
Donovan was voted the USL Championship’s Coach of the Month for June, earning the award after leading his side to an undefeated six-game run throughout the month.
Phoenix Rising say back waiting for a counterattack after Musa’s goal. Phoenix, a team known for its firepower, defended with nearly all its players on its side of the pitch most of the match.
As for Phoenix sitting back to defend, Adams was quick to point out his team didn’t do things differently than other times against the team from the desert.
“They are one of the best teams in the league and they came here tonight and we played against them and they were fearful of us in the sense that they sat back,” Adams said. “We played the way we wanted to play. We played the game on our terms, and we just didn’t win tonight.”
The last time SD Loyal (6-5-3, 21 points) lost a full match at home was more than 11 months ago. It was a 3-1 outing against now defunct Reno FC Aug. 22, 2020.
Donovan said: “Probably the one area that we could have been better at was creating overall chances. But overall, there aren’t many teams that pin Phoenix to their end of the field for long stretches like we did.”
SD Loyal will now head on a road trip, starting with a match at Tacoma Defiance Thursday July 29 and then an Aug. 1 affair at LA Galaxy II.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that Loyal signed Jack Blake to a two-year contract extension that keeps the English midfielder with the club through the 2023 season.
“We are committed to our community, our fans, to our staff and to our players,” Donovan said. “Jack Blake has shown his commitment in return, and we are delighted that he will be part of our club for years to come. He is a great professional on and off the field and we are very lucky to have him.”