SD Loyal snatches three road points after teenager scores twice in final minutes
SEASIDE, Calif. (Sept. 20, 2023) – San Diego Loyal SC finished a grueling road stretch in dramatic fashion Wednesday night with a 3-2 come-from-behind win against Monterey Bay F.C.
The victory was catapulted by two goals in the dying moments of the match from San Diego native and Loyal Select product Xavi Gnaulati. The 18-year-old midfielder scored the first and second goals of his professional career to help his team earn three points and finish the night holding the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings. When it appeared that SD Loyal would finish its third-straight road match with a loss, Gnaulati came on as a second half substitute in the 80th minute before scoring back-to-back goals in the final three minutes.
After traveling to the Eastern Time Zone twice and then back to California in a span of 12 days, SD Loyal finished its road stretch with an exclamation point led by Gnaulati’s heroics and a first half goal from Adrien Perez. Gnalauti’s goals came in the 90th minute and three minutes into stoppage time of the match in which Monterey Bay led from the 23rd minute until the Loyal Select product first found the net.
Gnaulati, who made his USL Championship debut in August after signing his first professional contract on July 28, first tied the match with a right-footed shot. The teenager sent his low strike past Monterey Bay goalkeeper Carlos Herrera after taking a rolling pass by Blake Bodily from left to right.
The youngster wasn’t finished. Less than three minutes later, Gnaulati sent in the game-winner after he put back a Evan Conway header that was blocked by Herrera. Sprinting to his teammates on the sidelines for a second time, Gnaulati’s goal would be the last of the night to seal the 3-2 win for SD Loyal.
The dramatic finish concluded a match that saw Perez score via header in the 44th minute to cut the home team’s lead in half. Monterey Bay initially took a 2-0 advantage with goals by Sam Gleadle (23rd minute) and Alex Lara (37th minute). Gleadle struck first after SD Loyal lost possession. The midfielder took a long pass by Rafael Baca and sped through open space on the right side, beating his defender before firing a right-footed shot past SD Loyal goalkeeper Koke Vegas. Lara scored his goal after charging in on a bending free kick by James Murphy to head the ball past Vegas for the 2-0 lead.
SD Loyal scored three unanswered goals on its way to the victory. The comeback began with Perez’s critical goal at the end of the first half. Monterey Bay goalkeeper Carlos Herrera came off his line but couldn’t clear the ball. Instead, the volley sliced off the head of Monterey Bay defender Hugh Roberts, leaving it loose for Perez to charge through and head it in.
Head Coach Nate Miller’s team insisted with its attack, hunting for an equalizer. It got that and more, to claim three massive points on the road as the club continues its quest for a berth in the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs. SD Loyal will look for a similar result Sunday as the club returns home to host Las Vegas Lights FC (Sept. 24, 3 p.m.). Tickets to the match from Torero Stadium are available now at sdloyal.com/tickets.
GOAL SCORING RUNDOWN
MB – Sam Gleadle (Rafael Baca), 23rd minute: Gleadle sent in a right-footed shot off a long pass by Rafel Baca after a SD Loyal turnover. MB 1, SD 0
MB – Alex Lara (James Murphy), 37th minute: Lara charged in on a bending free kick by Murphy and headed it in to extend the homeside’s lead. MB 2, SD 0
SD – Adrien Perez, 44th minute: Perez headed in a loose ball from just outside the six-yard box as he charged in from the right to cut the Monterey Bay lead in half. MB 2, SD 1
SD – Xavi Gnaulati (Blake Bodily), 90th minute: Bodily sent a low cross into the box that met the right foot of Gnaulati who slotted it in from the penalty spot. MB 2, SD 2
SD – Xavi Gnaulati, 90+3 minute: Gnaulati tapped in a right-footed shot after Evan Conway’s shot was blocked near the Monterey Bay goal line. MB 2, SD 3
- Adrien Perez scored his seventh goal of the season.
- Xavi Gnaulati scored his first and second goals of the season and professional career.
- Blake Bodily recorded his team-leading sixth assist of the season.
Palomar Health Man of the Match: Xavi Gnaulati