Club’s final chapter ends with 4-3 loss to Phoenix in conference quarterfinals
SAN DIEGO (Oct. 22, 2023) – San Diego Loyal SC’s 2023 season came to an end with a 4-3 loss in extra time after playing to a 3-3 draw in regulation against Phoenix Rising FC Sunday night. With the loss also came the end of the club and its four seasons in the USL Championship.
The Western Conference Quarterfinal was the final match ever for a club that brought competition, commitment and connection to the 18 cities and 86 neighborhoods of America’s Finest City while cultivating a diverse and inclusive community, on and off the pitch. SD Loyal displayed its entertaining brand and style of soccer Sunday in front of a sold out Torero Stadium crowd that continued to support its team till the very end.
Thousands of loyal fans, supporters and season ticket holders remained in the stands after the final whistle blew to soak in the final moments of what the club meant to them. After the team remained on the pitch to join supporters for one final “San Diego, We Are” chant, every player went through the hundreds of dedicated fans lined up to say their final goodbyes. But it was the players who showed their gratitude with hugs and tears, thanking the people of San Diego for their support in 2023 and over the past four seasons.
It was Phoenix who would leave Torero Stadium knowing they would have another match to play, advancing to the conference semifinals next weekend to take on Orange County SC.
Phoenix midfielder Dariusz Formella scored his second goal of the night in the 119th minute to seal the win for the visitors in a dramatic and thrilling playoff match that appeared to be heading into a penalty kick shootout. Formella ended any chance of a shootout when he slotted a left-footed blast from 17-yards out into the lower left corner of the SD Loyal net. The shot beat goalkeeper Koke Vegas on a counter attack during a time when Phoenix mostly sat back and defended.
SD Loyal forced extra time after Ronaldo Damus converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to tie the match 3-3. The Haitian striker sent in the penalty kick to complete his hat trick, becoming the club’s All-Time single season leading scorer with 15 goals. Damus scored his two other goals in the fifth and 25th minute. His first score came when he tapped in a quick shot from the six-yard box on a cross by Joe Corona for the 1-0 lead, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy. Corona dribbled up field on the right flank before sending a low pin-point ball to Damus on the run.
The SD Loyal lead lasted until Phoenix tied the match 1-1 in the 17th minute with a penalty kick by Panos Armenakas. The midfielder sent his shot to the left of Vegas, who dove right. SD Loyal forward Adrien Perez was whistled for a foul on Danny Trejo inside the penalty box a minute before.
SD Loyal, who finished the 2023 campaign third in the Western Conference with a 16W-9L-9D record and 57 points, continued to attack despite the tying goal by the visitors. The effort paid off in the 25th minute when Damus sped to a volleyed pass by Evan Conway into the penalty box. Conway intercepted a pass and sprinted upfield and lobbed the ball over Phoenix goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo into open space where Damus sprinted to the bouncing ball and slotted it into the net.
Phoenix tied the match 2-2 with a goal by Trejo in the 42nd minute. The striker poked a ball through the legs of Vegas to tie the match on an SD Loyal defensive miscue. The visitors scored again to start the second half, taking a 3-2 lead in the 51st minute. Formella sent a shot inside the right post after taking a pass from Darnell King.
The visitors opted to defend for the rest of the match until SD Loyal found the equalizer with Damus’ goal in stoppage time. His third goal came from the penalty spot and sent the match into extra time. Tumi Moshobane was fouled by Mohamed Traore at the top right corner of the penalty box to create the penalty kick opportunity.
But it was Phoenix sealing its win in the final moments of extra time when Formella beat the SD Loyal defense and Vegas with his shot. The score would end the match and close the final chapter on the pitch for SD Loyal.
GOAL SCORING RUNDOWN
SD – Ronaldo Damus (Joe Corona), 5th minute: Damus sent in a shot right from the six-yard box off a pass by Joe Corona. SD 1, PHX 0
PHX – Panos Armenakas, 19th minute: Aemwnakas converted a penalty kick to the left side of Koke Vegas to tie the match. SD 1, PHX 1
SD – Ronaldo Damus (Evan Conway), 25th minute: Damus scored his second of the night off a volley by Conway after a Phoenix defensive error. SD 2, PHX 2
PHX – Daniel Trejo (Carlos Harvey), 42nd minute: Trejo sent a shot between the legs of Koke Vegas to tie the match. SD 2, PHX 2
PHX – Dariusz Formella (Darnell King), 51st minute: Formella sent a shot inside the right post after a run and pass from King on the left. SD 2, PHX 3
SD – Ronaldo Damus, 90+6: Damus converted a penalty kick to tie the match in stoppage time. SD 3, PHX 3
PHX – Dariusz Formella (Manuel Arteaga), 119th minute: Formella slotted a left-footed shot into the lower-right corner of the net to give the visitors the lead. SD 3, PHX 4
- With his 13th, 14th and 15th goals of the season, Ronaldo Damus set a new single season club record for goals scored, surpassing Kyle Vassel’s mark (14) from 2022. The hat trick effort was his second of 2023 (Sept. 30 vs. Monterey Bay F.C.) and the third hat trick recorded in club history (Rubio Rubin, Sept. 19, 2020 at Phoenix Rising FC).
- Joe Corona recorded his third assist of the season.
- Evan Conway recorded his first assist of the season.
- Koke Vegas added 120 minutes to his single season club record for minutes played, finishing the 2023 USL Championship season with 2,910.
- Grant Stoneman recorded a club high 8,169 minutes in his four seasons with SD Loyal.
- Tumi Moshobane finished his four-year career at SD Loyal with a team-high 114 USL Championship appearances. Moshobane also finished as the club’s All-Time scorer with 25 goals.
- Charlie Adams finished with an All-Time team best 18 assists in his four seasons with SD Loyal.
Palomar Health Man of the Match: Ronaldo Damus