One last post: An open letter to San Diego Loyal.
The lasting image of Loyal, dressed in black, walking off the pitch on September 30th will be etched in my mind. I can still see Collin Martin sitting in the makeshift locker room. I can still picture the empty stadium, the confusion, the conversations happening between the handful of people sitting in the stands in hushed whispers. My hope is this time they will walk off the pitch victorious, to a packed house to the appreciation the team, staff, and community deserve.
I had been following the USL as a league prior to the league-wide rebrand where they added the “championship” to it. It was a few years prior to Loyal becoming a thing. I always felt like an outsider. The closest team was in Irvine. It was too far to be a “home” team. I did have the pleasure of watching them play Reno 1868 in a playoff match in late October in 2018. That game is what made me want to follow the league. I was introduced to USL legends like Aodhan Quinn. I never thought I would get a chance to watch a match in San Diego. I was ecstatic when the team was announced.
San Diego Loyal means so many different things to so many different people. I am not here to speak on their behalf, but I do hope that some feel what I feel.
Loyal gave me a place to be a true supporter. It gave me a community to be a part of that connected me to San Diego more than anything else I have experienced. Loyal helped me meet people and develop great relationships that I cherish so much. Loyal gave me the support to be who I am and be proud of that. The team gave me not just players to root for, but humans to truly believe in on and off the pitch. I find myself still rooting for players well after they leave. These players were just good people that make you want them to succeed. Guys like Jack Blake or Josh Yaro come to mind when I find myself rooting for former players and their continued success (or get mad when they score against the team…Emrah…) They might not be on the team still, but I still feel connected to them and want to see them succeed. It’s like when you see Jack Metcalf back at Torero and the feeling of happiness you get when he talks about his transition out of being a player and the good work he is doing off the pitch.
The team has given us so much. I want to shake everyone’s hand and say thank you for giving so much on the pitch to root for.
Was it always great? Of course not. No relationship ever is. Anytime something ends, we tend to look back with rose colored glasses. This is how I choose to look back at the last 4 years. Ignore the blemishes and remember the great times. The highs were big enough that there are plenty to hold on to.
I guess this just feels like this is a break-up. I have seen other fans go through this throughout the years. Fresno and Reno were the hardest to watch happen. I felt the pain of those fans, but this one hits home in a way that I am not quite ready for. For four years we have watched the team grow and the players grow. We have seen hometown kids become hometown heroes. We have watched each other’s families grow too. There is nothing better than getting to Torero early and walking around as we all come together. Every game feels like a family reunion. I was reminded of this after the long road trip this year. Shaking hands and exchanging hugs filled me with so much energy and happiness.
I want to be mad, but I am not at that stage of grief yet. Or maybe I have passed it, but we will all be grieving in some way. I hope that we all recognize that we will grieve in our own way and we should be supportive of each other through it.
I know this won’t be the end of the community, but I do feel like this is the epilogue from The Sandlot where members of this family will slowly move away. The players will sign with new teams, supporters will find a new team to support, and the people who work behind the scenes will get jobs with other clubs in town or in other cities. I will miss so many things on game day that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of.
It feels too soon.
We were just getting started.
It feels like yesterday that we were at the crest reveal or at the supporter’s group naming convention at Bay City. There was so much hope and excitement for the future.
I want to add so many names to the “thank you” list but I feel that I would leave someone out. I just want to say thank you to the staff, the players, the fellow supporters, and the media members who helped make so many people happy and feel like they belong. This community helped me in ways that I don’t think they truly understand.
I can only hope that when all of this is over that our paths will cross again soon and often. If you need to, or want to, please reach out.
Thank you. All of you.