Tacoma, Wash. (March 11, 2020) – It was another night of firsts for San Diego Loyal Soccer Club (SD Loyal) on Wednesday night. Team 1 Manager Landon Donovan’s team earned its first win in club history on the team’s first road match after beating host Tacoma Defiance 2-1 at an empty Cheney Stadium.
Francis Atuahene scored in the 31st and 85th minute for SD Loyal, helping the team remain undefeated and add three points in the Western Conference table early in the USL Championship regular season. SD Loyal (1-0-1; 4 points) was coming off a 1-1 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC in its Inaugural match at a sold-out University of San Diego Stadium’s Torero Stadium on March 7.
No fans were permitted at Cheney Stadium for the match after league and team officials announced earlier in the day to hold the match behind closed doors due to developments in the region regarding COVID-19. The decision came following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement to suspend large public gatherings in the region. SD Loyal had been in contact with Tacoma Defiance, United Soccer League, regional government agencies and health authorities, and ultimately determined that it was safe to proceed with the match behind closed doors.
There were no fans in house to cheer Atuehene’s goals but his teammates celebrated with him, accordingly. They surrounded and hugged the Ghana-born midfielder after he jogged back from scoring by the opponent’s six-yard line.
SD Loyal opened up the scoring when Atuahene sent in a free kick by Collin Martin. The midfielder bent his set piece from right to left and found Atuahene charging the six-yard box, connecting with his foot while jumping. The shot ricocheted past Tacoma Defiance goalkeeper Trey Muse.
Atuahene sent in his second goal of the night past Muse when he took a quick pass from Jack Metcalf from the right flank. Atuahene took it and buried it from the top of the six-yard box.
Tacoma Defiance (0-1-1; 1 point) tied the match in the 56th minute as Justin Dhillon scored off a cross by Shandon Hopeau that came from right to left. The low-rolling assist was on point for Dhillon to only tap it in past SD Loyal goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
The host team continued to push its lines up soon after its score. Azriel Gonzalez nearly scored on a point-blank shot near the right post. But Kempin, the SD Loyal goalkeeper making his first start was there to block the low shot at his line.
Both clubs next matches were postponed due to concerns for COVID-19. SD Loyal is evaluating its schedule on a match-by-match basis and in consultation with health officials and the league.
0-1 31st - Francis Atuahene (SD)
1-1 56th - Justin Dhillon (TAC)
1-2 85th - Francis Atuahene (SD)
Tacoma Defiance: 1. Trey Muse, 16. Alex Roldan, 81. Danny Reynolds, 74. Taylor Mueller, 92. Abdoulaye Cissoko, 84. Josh Atencio, 37. Shandon Hopeau, 75. Danny Leyva, 34. Danny Robles, 38. Azriel Gonzalez, 99. Justin Dhillon. Coach: Chris Little
SD Loyal: 28. Jon Kempin, 5. Grant Stoneman, 23. Emrah Klimenta, 3. Elijah Martin, 17. Martin Collin, 16. Beverly Makangila, 14. Yair Jaen, 12. Eric Avila, 19. Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, 22. Francis Atuahene, 15. Robinson Moshobane. Coach: Landon Donovan