USL professional soccer
Kyle Adams, left, a San Diego State alum, of San Diego Loyal SC. Photo credit: @SanDiegoLoyal via Twitter

San Diego Loyal FC kicks off the 2022 USL Championship season at 7 p.m. Saturday against LA Galaxy II at Torero Stadium.

The team finished third in the Pacific Division last year and went to the playoffs for the first time, losing to San Antonio FC.

In two recent pre-season matches, the Loyal fell to Vancouver 1-0 and beat the Tijuana Xolos 3-2.

The Loyal also will play in an altered USL alignment, with the league’s 27 teams divided into two conferences – 14 in the Eastern Conference and 13 in the Western Conference. The top seven teams in each conference qualify for the USL Championship Playoffs.

“We are pleased and eager to see the Championship in a traditional two-conference alignment in 2022,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “This regular season format increases the importance of each intra-conference match while also providing the variety and intrigue of more cross-conference matchups.”

New Loyal additions include Thomas Amang, acquired last month via a trade with Colorado Switchbacks FC for midfielder Haji Abdikadir.

Manager Landon Donovan, who is also the team’s executive vice president soccer operations, called him “a proven goalscorer with lots of experience (who) can play in multiple attacking positions. He is a great addition to our club.”  

Amang, 24, spent the 2021 season with Colorado Springs, playing in 13 games while scoring three goals along with an assist in 804 minutes. He started in 10 games as part of the team’s attacking force. He signed with Molde FK in Norway’s top league at age 18 in 2016, then moved to a third-tier league in Spain before joining Switchbacks FC. 

The team also signed Kyle Vassell from the English League One side Cheltenham Town FC.

“We were fortunate to have Kyle train with us last summer and it was immediately clear that he is the type of player that could take us to the next level and help us win a championship,” Donovan said.

Vassell, 28, played in 16 games with his former club last season while scoring two goals. The veteran spent more than a decade competing in the English football league system.

He joins Evan Conway, formerly of Union Omaha of the USL League One, and Nick Moon, from Indy Eleven, as new Loyal strikers.

Other newcomers include Kyle Adams, a defender from USL Championship side Real Monarchs, Nikko Boxall, from Finnish side SJK in the Veikkausliiga, the top soccer tier in Finland, and Koke Vegas,  a goalkeeper from Levante UD of La Liga.

The team also signed Andrew Carleton, 21, a player dogged by a history of disciplinary issues. The Loyal issued a statement this week saying the midfielder “understands the opportunity in front of him and acknowledges his mistakes from the past.”

Other changes for the league include the USL debuts of Detroit City FC and Monterey Bay FC, which will join the Eastern and Western conferences.