San Diego Loyal SC came into Sunday’s match already having reached one of its goals – to earn a playoff spot for the first time in the club’s history.
But there’s still work to be done. In the team’s second-to-last home match, the Loyal came out with a business-like effort in a 1-1 draw against New Mexico United at Torero Stadium.
Midfielder Douglas Martinez Jr. scored a goal in the 61st minute, sending in a header off a corner kick by Alejandro Guido. Martinez’ second goal of the season came in back-to-back matches, after he scored off a Guido pass in last week’s win vs. the Sacramento Republic.
SD Loyal (14-10-5, 47 points) held possession and controlled the rhythm for most of the first half. New Mexico United, though, tied it up in stoppage time when Ilija Ilic hit a precise shot from inside the six-yard box to beat goalkeeper Austin Guerrero.
Coach Landon Donovan called the equalizer by New Mexico “a great cross and a great finish.”
“We were very good the entire match and the last moment we weren’t,” he added. Give them credit. It’s probably a great result.”
Guerrero finished with seven saves, including one in the 83rd minute.
“This was a playoff-like game,” Guerrero said. “It’s the end of the season and everyone is fighting everyone to make the playoffs. They’re fighting and have their hopes (to get in) and we are trying to get the best seed possible, so, it felt like a playoff game.”
Guido, who set up Martinez’ goal, was denied a couple goals of his own. The midfielder, a Chula Vista native, hit the crossbar twice, once in each half.
The team clinched it’s first ever postseason berth after Orange County SC beat the Oakland Roots Saturday.
The Loyal sits in second place, four points ahead of their next opponent. They meet Orange County SC at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Irvine.
Now they want to secure the second-place spot in the Pacific Division standings. That results in hosting the opening round of the playoffs at home.
If the Loyal gets the three points it needs in the mid-week game, the team clinches the second spot over Orange County. A draw keeps both clubs in contention for the key spot.
After that, San Diego plays its last two regular-season games of the year – at home against the Oakland Roots Oct. 24 and on the road in Sacramento six days later.