USL Championship soccer
Ronaldo Damus, center, scored a hat trick in SD Loyal’s Saturday win, the second in Loyal history. Photo credit: @SanDiegoLoyal via X

San Diego Loyal SC has secured its third-consecutive berth in the USL Championship, though it is bittersweet, as 2023 is the team’s final season.

SD Loyal (14-9-8, 50 points) beat visiting Monterey Bay FC 4-1 Saturday before a sold-out crowd at Torero Stadium as Ronaldo Damus scored a hat trick. Carlos Guzman also found the net in the Western Conference match.

The win gives coach Nate Miller’s squad three more points in the standings – SD Loyal is in third place – as it fights to secure a home playoff match with a top-four finish.

The current top four in the west – Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego and Phoenix.

Monterey Bay (11-13-8, 41 points) took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute when Morey Doner sent a shot off the right post and into the net.

SD Loyal (14W-9L-8D, 50 points) began to mount a comeback seven minutes later, tying the match with a header by Damus. The speedy forward charged in on goal and connected on a cross by Blake Bodily from left to right.

It was the Haitian’s eighth goal of the season and Bodily’s team-leading seventh assist.

The home side continued to pressure and attack, taking the lead for good with a goal by Guzman in the 29th minute. The native of Michoacan, Mexico found the back of the net on a Charlie Adams corner kick.

The defender’s header from 16 yards out slipped past Monterey Bay goalkeeper Carlos Herrera. It was his first USL Championship goal.

Damus scored his second of the night in the 73rd minute when he tapped a ball past Herrera off a pass from Joe Corona near the six-yard box. The striker completed his hat trick in stoppage time, sending in a low shot inside the right post off a breakaway.

With his 10th goal of the season, Damus now shares the team lead with Evan Conway. His hat trick was the second recorded in SD Loyal history after Rubio Rubin accomplished the feat Sept. 19, 2020 at Phoenix Rising FC.

SD Loyal next travels to face El Paso Locomotive FC at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The team will then return for its final regular season home match against Oakland Roots SC at 7 p.m. Saturday.