WHAT: On Saturday, Sept. 11, San Diego Loyal is back on the road as it travels to the Bay Area for the first time as it continues to vie for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Week 21 match slated to be streamed on ESPN+.
“When we scare teams, we are very hard to beat.”
Those are the words Donovan uses to describe his club when it plays out its plans to a fluid brand of soccer on the field. And SD Loyal has a chance to become the team that clubs in the Pacific Division will worry about heading into their final 10 matches of the USL Championship regular season.
After all, SD Loyal heads into this match against Oakland Roots having won back-to-back matches having found what it was looking for most of this season: a dominant attack. Donovan and his team now have an additional set of strikers that can help his team into the postseason as long as they continue to produce consistent results. The arrival of strikers Augustine Williams and Douglas Martinez has sparked a force on top. The scoring chances were previously there but not the scoring. SD Loyal has taken advantage of opportunities in its last two games and they have translated into seven goals, out scoring its last pair of opponents 7-3. Williams has three goals in to matches and an assist, helping Corey Hertzog to a pair of goals against LA Galaxy II and a USL Championship Player of the Week honor. Martinez made his debut last week and was a factor in scoring plays and ball distribution from the right side of the pitch.
“They are making plays. It’s an easy thing to say but a harder thing to do but once players start getting confident and feeling more comfortable in front of goal then it becomes a domino effect, Donovan said of Willams and Martinez who signed with the team in the last couple of weeks. “Augie (Williams) has done a lot to stretch teams and make it dangerous. Douglas seeing a lot of minutes (in the last match) is really good for us. It just makes us more dangerous.”
SD Loyal is threatening to secure a playoff berth as it heads into this road match in second place in the Pacific Division standings ahead of Orange County and Tacoma Defiance. Its match against Oakland is the first visit to the Bay Area and the first of four road games in its next five matches, which includes a return trip to Oakland.
Oakland Roots enters the match after a short turnaround. It had a midweek match against Las Vegas Lights, a 1-0 win Wednesday night. Johnny Rodriguez helped the team with his 63rd minute goal on a 100-degree plus night in the desert.
Oakland is one of the most improved teams in the league and has surpassed a pair of teams in the Pacific Division standings after spending the early part of the season in last place. Oakland is 5-1-2 in its last eight matches, moving to sixth place out of the eight spots in the division. A pair of wins against Las Vegas Lights, a win against LA Galaxy II, another one against first place Phoenix Rising FC and another against Tacoma Defiance. Oakland did lose to defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Rowdies during that stretch but the outcomes in the month of August and early September could be deemed impressive for an expansion franchise.
This is the second time SD Loyal faces Oakland Roots, first match was on June 29 at Torero Stadium at USD. SD Loyal came away with a 1-0 win in the first-ever meeting between the two franchises.
There are some familiar faces on Oakland Roots as former SD Loyal defender Emrah Klimenta who leads the club with 42 clearances and 774 passes (81.5% accuracy). Another former SD Loyal defender, Tarek Morad also is part of the defensive unit for the Roots. Other notable players on Oakland Roots’ roster are Chuy Enriquez, who leads the team in assists and chances created. Wall Fall is a big presence in the midfield. He has scored three goals this season, two of them coming off free kicks.