10 Man Loyal Fight Hard For Win.
What started as a quite cold and rainy Saturday, ended up being a magnificent evening. As supporters arrived to the campus of the University of San Diego they were greeted by flowing banners announcing that the time has finally come for San Diego Loyal Soccer Club to play their first match in their home stadium. This match would feature Costa Del Este Football Club from Panama City, the former team of SD Loyal player Yair Jean.
By the time 8 o’clock rolled around, and several thousand fans had made their way into the stadium, it was quite a chilly night, although it did not feel that way in the supporters section. The Locals really packed in their section and were ready to encourage the home team wearing their orange preseason kits, but with the newly added “Stone Brewing” sponsorship across their chest.
Loyal lined up in what has become the recognized formation with three at the back and a pair of strikers up top. This allowed Loyal to keep the pressure high and kept play in the Costa Del Este half for long periods of play. Although Costa Del Este did break out after a corner kick and looked quick in the counter, Loyal looked the more dominant side for the first half.
In the 24th minute, Yair Jean looked like he might strike against his former club with a great curler into the corner of the net, but the shot was pushed wide to keep the Loyal off the board and the supporters waiting for the first goal of the match.
It looked like Loyal might get a penalty when Irvin Parra was brought down very hard in the box, but the official waved play on thinking that the Costa Del Este player must have won the ball. The officials in the stands vocally disagreed, but it meant that Loyal would still have to wait to get their first goal.
That finally came in the 44th minute. SD Loyal had been buzzing in front of the goal and it felt like a goal was in the cards. Irvin Parra had a good look from the left side of the box and his low shot forced a save and a rebound. Instead of putting the rebound wide to the right, the ball came back out to the left. The ball found its way to Jack Metcalf who would put the ball into a wide open net and the celebrations were on.
The second half featured some controversy. In the 60th minute, while being subbed off, Irvin Parra was given a straight red card. It was apparently for something that he said to the referee on his way off the pitch. This meant that Loyal played down a man for the last 30 minutes of the match.
While Loyal wants to play with an attacking style, this meant that they had to play with a more defensive mindset. They were forced to play five across the back and only one up top, and they were fierce in defense.
Costa Del Este kept the pressure up, but Loyal always seemed up for the task, especially with towering Joe Greenspan in the middle. Every time he cleared the ball away the supporters answered with the chant “Joe says NO!”
There were a couple of nervous moments in the second half with several shot screaming over the bar, but only a dangerous free kick forced a save from starting keeper Jake Fenlason. The team played hard and the supporters cheered them on to win their first match at USD and left the stadium with a good feeling going into their home opener in two weeks.
That match with be on March 7th against the Las Vegas Lights at 7:00 pm. San Diego Loyal’s next match will be their final friendly prior to the start of the season against a fellow USL Championship team Reno 1868 FC on February 29th at noon.