SD Loyal vs Costa del Este: a photo album
San Diego Loyal Soccer Club played their first match at their home stadium on the night of Saturday February 22nd. The opponent was Yair Jaen’s previous club: Costa del Este FC from Panama.
Head Coach, Landon Donovan, gave his squad a locker room talk before the match. Donovan has just given a “chalk talk” to local media and youth players. At the talk inside USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion, Donovan explained that this match is “their World Cup,” referring to Costa del Este FC. This game was their chance to show their talent and skill to Americans. Seeing Jaen get scouted and recruited to an American team lit a fire inside the Costa del Este players. They were going to give this game their all.
After warmups, the Loyal men returned to the locker room to prep for their walkout. A few moments before kickoff, preceded led his team onto the field at Torero Stadium for the first time.
Midfielder Raul Mediola was named captain for the match and led the team onto the field.
San Diego native, Jake Fenlason, was the starting goalkeeper and enjoyed walking out onto the field in front of the thousands of fans in attendance.
The match went zero-to-sixty immediately. From the referee’s first whistle, SD Loyal was on the front foot. Attacks came in waves and were evenly distributed across the width of the pitch.
A few more attacking drives came from Jaen’s left side of the field. The speedy Panamanian, just as he did against FC Dallas, frustrated his defenders all night long.
Scoring chances for Loyal also came up the middle of the field and the right wing. The game’s first real chance came in the form of a side-volley off the foot of Irvin Para.
Para’s shot said just wide. The packed stands at Torero Stadium roared in excitement and continued to will their team towards a goal.
The breakthrough came just before halftime. Loyal put together another run up the field, and Qudus Lawal eventually put a shot on goal. Jack Metcalf was there to bury the rebound.
In the 44th minute of their first game at home, SD Loyal had taken the lead, and the stadium erupted.
The team came together — even Joe Greenspan sprinted up from the back line to celebrate with his teammates and the Locals Supporters Group behind the goal.
Second Half: Joe Says “NO!”
The second half saw a momentum shift in the 60th minute. Para was set to be subbed off when the referee called him back onto the field. Para was shown straight red and ejected from the match. Reasons for the ejection are still unclear. What was clear is that Loyal would have to finish the match a man down.
With the one-man advantage, Costa del Este was able to put together more attacking opportunities through the midfield. The visitors got their first real introduction to the defensive prowess of the 2019 USL Championship Defender of the Year — Joe Greenspan.
The Locals Supporters Group treated the crowd to Greenspan’s new signature chant: “JOE SAYS NO!” Costa del Este was unable to score, even with their man advantage.
The Panamanians had a few shots whiz over the crossbar. There was also a foul called in a dangerous area just outside the 18-yard box. The free kick, however, sailed over the defensive wall and safely into the arms of Fenlason.
Final Score: 1-0 SD Loyal
In the final ten minutes of the game, Loyal snuffed out most of Costa del Este’s attacks. Rather than “parking the bus” along the back line, the midfield and defense controlled most of the play in the middle third of the pitch. Eventually, Loyal’s fitness and possession saw them through to the final whistle.
After four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew. San Diego Loyal Soccer Club had won their first match in their home stadium. The players shook hands and went to celebrate with their supporters.
NEXT UP: USL Championship Opening Game! March 7th. Be a part of history!
The next stop for SD Loyal is the USL Championship 2020 season opener. The game is March 7th at 7pm against Las Vegas Lights. The game is nearly sold out, but tickets are still available. Visit SDLoyal.com for info.
all photos by me, Carey Schumacher, through a partnership with SD Loyal and soccerloco