Sacramento, Calif. (Oct. 30, 2021) – The regular season comes to a close, but SD Loyal is in the playoffs for the first time, in just its second season of existence. Coach Landon Donovan’s team will add to the list of milestones the past two years as it will play in the USL Championship Playoffs presented by TwinSpires against San Antonio FC Friday Nov. 5 at Toyota Field.
SD Loyal closed out the 2021 regular season with a 1-1 draw against host Sacramento Republic at Heart Health Park Saturday. Alejandro Guido scored in the 67th minute for the Loyal, giving his squad and all of San Diego hopes of hosting a playoff match next week. Instead, it was Sacramento finding the equalizer with a goal by Cameron Iwasa in the 77th minute.
Guido found the net for SD Loyal, opening the scoring of a tightly contested match. The Chula Vista native dribbled an Augustine Williams pass into the penalty area, faked to the right and shook off his defender cutting back to the left and fired a blast from about 15-yards out into the Sacramento net. Sacramento Republic goalkeeper Carlos Saldana had no chance to make a play. Guido's sixth goal of the season came off a pass from second-half sub Douglas Martinez Jr. to Williams from right to left.
SD Loyal finish the season in third place in the Pacific Division standings after Orange County beat LA Galaxy II 1-0 in Carson, California. The results set up SD Loyal for a road playoff match against San Antonio.
SD Loyal finished the regular season with a 15-12-5 record with 48 points. Orange County finished second with 52 points, behind division champ Phoenix Rising (67 points). Donovan’s team clinched a playoff spot on Oct. 16 with its own destiny at hand and four games remaining. It couldn’t close and seal the second place spot in the division, ending the season with two draws and two losses. It could have clinched that second place spot with win against Orange County earlier this month, but it allowed a tying goal in stoppage time against New Mexico and it couldn’t overcome an early goal in a 1-0 loss at Orange County. It then climbed back to tie last week’s match against Oakland Roots 3-3 but a stoppage time goal converted by Oakland via a penalty took that point from SD Loyal.
“We didn’t lose that grasp on second tonight,” Donovan said. “We lost it during the last week. The last four games we had three very good performances and one bad performance. Unfortunately, we didn’t get good results in any of them.”
Against Sacramento Saturday, Donovan’s squad added its final point of the season Saturday thanks to Guido’s goal. The score came at a time in which SD Loyal was looking to break the stale pace of the Week 28 match. Sacramento Republic stood back and defended for most of the first half and part of the second. It wasn’t until Donovan made a few substitutions that SD Loyal was able to breakthrough for Guido’s goal. Before that, it was Williams who created a handful of scoring chances for SD Loyal but he couldn’t convert them.
Williams had Saldana jump on a shot in the 35th minute, then he sent a shot over the crossbar in the 56th as he slid in the six-yard box. Williams made up for those with his assist on Guido’s goal.
“For 70 minutes we were fantastic and every team no matter what the team is or what situation they’re in, how many points they have, they are going to put you under some pressure at some point,” Donvan said. “It’s just the way soccer is.”
Sacramento’s goal came when Iwasa sent in a header in the 77th minute. The Sacramento team captain sent in a floating cross by Nabi Kibunguchy. Iwasa connected in between a defender and SD Loyal goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira. Sacramento Republic appeared to have scored again two minutes later when Maalique Foster took a ball from Callum Montgomery and sped away towards goal. He then sent a low rolling shot in between Castanheira’s legs but the goal was disallowed. Maalique Foster was whistled for a foul on Montgomery.
“We let ourselves down a little bit there but overall, honestly it was a great performance against a that had nothing to lose,” Donovan said. “They played more freely than they played all year and they were better than they have been a lot of times during the year. Not an easy place to come play and I am proud of the guys, but now, time to look forward.”
SD Loyal’s quest for a run at the USL Championship title will begin on the road at it will now prepare for the first round playoff match at San Antonio FC.
“We are going there to play like the home team try to dominate the ball and finish chances,” Donovan said. “And if we finish those chances we have a real good chance to win.”
Sacramento Republic: -1. Carlos Saldana, 30. Jordan McCrary, 36. Nabi Kibunguchy, 3 Hayden Sargis, 2. Shannon Gomez, 96. Luis Felipe, 28. Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, 24. Jaime Villarreal, 11. Emil Cuello, 14. Duke Lacroix, 31. Cameron Iwasa. Coach: Mark Briggs