San Diego, CA. (Oct. 24, 2021) – San Diego Loyal SC manager Landon Donovan talked about it. He had played on teams who perhaps slowed down having already clinched a playoff spot.
SD Loyal didn’t slow its attack or playing tactics Sunday afternoon but it was a handful of mistakes that led to a 4-3 loss against visiting Oakland Roots at Torero Stadium at USD.
Donovan’s team secured its first-ever USL Championship playoff berth last week with three matches remaining and a chance to secure a first round playoff match if it won one or two key matches. Instead, SD Loyal now finds itself in a must win and get help scenario with one regular season match remaining.
Against Oakland on Sunday, SD Loyal came out with its usual intensity on the attack and was able to tie the game late in the Week 27 match. But a penalty kick in stoppage time was enough for Oakland to earn the win. Jeremy Bokila converted the late penalty kick to give the Bay Area team the win after SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero was whistled for a foul in the area a minute earlier.
SD Loyal had tied the game 3-3 with an 86th minute goal by Corey Hertzog and it appeared to have gained momentum heading into the final stretch of the game. The 4,982 in attendance erupted into frenzy with Hertzog’s goal. The SD Loyal midfielder urged them on as he flapped his arms up and down near midfield. Hertzog basked in the cheers not only because he tied the game, but he also became the USL’s second best all-time scorer with 73. Hertzog also has six in the season.
“It’s good but it would have been better to win 3-2 and I score the third one but it’s a good accomplishment but what matters is to win the trophy and play at home in our playoff games and maybe go on a little run and hold that trophy in the end,” Hertzog said about his goal. “That’s what we want.”
As for his thoughts on the match, Hertzog thought there was a chance to complete the comeback.
“When we went 3-3 I thought we were going to win the game,” Hertzog said. “I thought we would get that goal. I wasn’t here last year for the first game but I think that is the loudest I’ve ever heard the game. Everyone was standing and I honestly thought we would get that fourth goal.”
SD Loyal got the first goal of the game, looking like itself early in the match. It took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute with a goal by Augustine Williams but the visitors answered with three goals, including three in the second half.
Williams opened up the scoring as he slid into the six yard box to put in a cross by Hertzog. The striker charged the back post with his defender nearby, but Hertzog’s pass was pin-point. All Williams had to is slide to make contact and send it in for his fifth goal of the season since coming over to SD Loyal on loan from LA Galaxy II in August.
But it was mistakes that led to an Oakland Roots come-back and eventually the win after Williams’ goal. Oakland got on the board with an SD Loyal own goal. Callum Montgomery sent the ball into his own net. Montgomery took a pass by Elijah Martin and tried sending it back to Guerrero, the goalkeeper but it went across the six-yard box off the left post into the net instead to tie the match 1-1.
“We were off by a second in a lot of areas and that ultimately threw us off how we normally play,” Donovan said. “I tell the players that soccer gives you what you deserve. Maybe we didn’t deserve it today the way we played in the first half.”
In the second half, Oakland took the lead 2-1 in the 52nd minute when Jesus Enriquez fires a shot from about 20 yards out, bends a left-footed shot just out of the reach of a diving Guerrero. The SD Loyal defense struggled to clear the ball before Enriquez found it to send his shot.
The visitors extended their lead six minutes later. Akeem O’Conner-Ward dribbled an own pass inside the penalty box, volleying over two SD Loyal defenders and sending it past Guerrero for the 3-1 lead.
SD Loyal then cut the lead with another Williams goal in the 76th minute. Elijah Martin fed the Sierra Leone native a quick pass before the shot. Oakland still led 3-2. That’s when Hertzog found the net with his milestone goal ten minutes later.
And then came the penalty kick. Oakland remains alive in the playoff hunt with the win. SD Loyal will now need to head into its regular season finale Saturday Oct. 30 at Sacramento Republic needing a win and an Orange County loss against LA Galaxy II to lock the 2nd spot and host the first playoff match at home.
Oakland Roots: -20. Paul Blanchette, 15. Akeem O’Conner-Ward, 21. Emrah Klimenta, 33. Kai Greene, 23. Memo Diaz, 5. Wal Fall, 12. Joseph Nane, 7. Matias Fissore, 18. Jose Hernandez, 11. Jesus Enriquez, 25. Quincy Amarikwa, Coach: Jordan Farrell