Chandler, Ariz (June 5, 2021) –Players walked off the pitch staring at the ground and shaking their heads the last time San Diego Loyal SC was at Wild Horse Pass Stadium. Some even buried their face in their hands about a month ago.
This time, it was players looking around trying to figure out what had transpired in the final moments of an emotional finish of a 2-2 draw against host Phoenix Rising FC in front of nearly 9,000 fans.
What appeared to be headed to another SD Loyal three points and a first win on the road quickly changed in the final seven minutes of the Week 7 USL Championship match.
Miguel Berry (14th minute) and Jack Blake (71st) had scored for manager Landon Donovan’s team. SD Loyal (1-4-1, 4 points) led 2-0 with only six minutes of stoppage time to play. The seventh minute of added time provided just enough time for Phoenix Rising (4-2-1, 13 points) to score a pair of goals and salvage a point with the come-from-behind draw.
Joseph Calistri (90+6) tied the game with a shot from the right side off one of a series of late consecutive corner kicks by the home team. Santi Moar cut the SD Loyal lead in half when he scored in extra time. He was all alone on the right side of the penalty box to find the deflected ball.
The turn of events came after Donovan’s team came out attacking, putting pressure on Phoenix Rising, who came into the match as the Pacific Division leader.
It was a deed SD Loyal set out to earn as it came here last month and lost 4-1 in the season opener for both teams. It was a different story this time. Donovan had his team ready for some redemption against the defending Western Conference champion and controlled most aspects of the game, creating chances with its attackers. Berry was one of them.
“At the start of the game, if you said we’d play that way and we’d tie the game, we would be okay with that,” Donovan said. “We want more. And we know that we could be better. We were very, very good for most of the match, not perfect but very good. A little disappointing at the end to give up the goals of course. But still proud of the overall effort and I look at performance always more than I look at the results. Obviously, we want to win games but that was a really good performance against the best team in the league at their place.”
Berry, who came on loan to SD Loyal last week, didn’t waste his first chance at goal. The 6-foot-3 striker sent in a right-footed blast in between two defenders as he entered the penalty box from the right. Berry shed his mark as he won a loose ball after a bounce, leaving Phoenix Rising defender James Musa behind for a 1-0 lead. It was Berry’s first goal with SD Loyal this season.
Blake added to the scoring and sent in his second goal of the season when he buried a blast from inches outside the penalty box. He faked out his defender then fired the ball into the right corner of the net, leaving Rawls diving without a chance for the SD Loyal 2-0 lead. The scoring plays were results of SD Loyal continuing to push up field while also maintain control of its back line. Phoenix did not have a shot on target until late in the game.
One of them was Moar’s goal. Moar scored with a right-footed shot that beat SD Loyal goalkeeper Trey Muse. Moar, who has scored in every match this season, cut the lead when he took a ball while being wide open on the right side of the penalty box. He didn’t waste his chance, converting as he caught the SD Loyal defense off guard.
Moar had several chances earlier in the match but couldn’t get his shots on target. Adeseyi Adekoya nearly scored for the home side in the 67th minute.
And then there was Calistri, who rushed in wide open from the left side off the box to a loose ball. He struck the ball and beat Muse to tie the game and send SD Loyal players into disbelief.
But Donovan said his team can learn from the result and not be disappointed.
“The confidence to play this way…we know how to beat Phoenix.” Donovan said. “We have proven over the last 18 months. (We’ve proven) that we are almost the only team in this league that knows how to beat them consistently and that's powerful. We need that. We need that now over 90 minutes but in the first half the way we dominated the game is what we know we can do against them. Maybe if we're a little more clinical we're 2-0 or 3-0 at halftime instead of 2-0, 3-0 later in the game. It's still an overall good performance and we can continue to keep getting better. I'm absolutely proud of the performance and there's no time to be upset we just have to get going because we play again Wednesday.”
SD Loyal will return home to prepare for its next match, an affair on the road against Orange County SC Wednesday June 9 at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, Calif.
Phoenix Rising FC: 24. Andre Rawls, 2. Darnell King, 41. James Musa, 5. Tobi Adewole, 4. Ryan Flood, 18. Jeremy Kelly, 10. Jon Bakero, 21. Joseph Calistri, 7. Santi Moar, 9. Rufat Dadashov (61’- 22. Adeseyi Adekoya), 20. Salomon Asante. Coach: Rick Schantz