October 17, 2021 – United Soccer League Championship (USL) – San Diego Loyal News Release
San Diego, CA. – San Diego Loyal SC came into Saturday’s match already having reached one of its goals: earn a playoff spot.
Coach Landon Donovan’s team had already clinched a spot in the USL Championship postseason a day before stepping onto the pitch for its second to last home match. None of that mattered, SD Loyal still had work to do. The Loyal came out with a business-like effort in a 1-1 draw against visiting New Mexico United at Torero Stadium.
After all, SD Loyal’s goals are more than only earning a playoff spot for the first time in club history, only two years into its existence. Up next, securing a second place spot in the Pacific Division standings to host the opening round of the playoffs at Torero Stadium. SD Loyal helped its cause with the draw against a New Mexico United club also looking to get into the playoffs out of the Mountain Division. Donovan’s team added one more point (47) with the draw as SD Loyal is unbeaten in its last four matches.
Honduran midfielder Douglas Martinez Jr. helped his team to that earned point with a 61st minute goal. He sent in a header off a corner kick by Alejandro Guido. Martinez got his head on the floating ball near the right post and sent it bouncing in front of the goal line and into the left wall of the New Mexico goal. Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis could only stand and watch it go in. It was Martinez’ second goal of the season – coming in back-to-back matches, after scoring off a Guido pass last week to win it against Sacramento Republic.
The Martinez-Guido connection came in a time during the match in which New Mexico United has begun to move its lines up after SD Loyal (14-10-5, 47 points) held possession and controlled the rhythm for most of the first half of the Week 26 match.
New Mexico United tied the match in stoppage time when Ilija Ilic hit a precise shot from inside the six-yard box to beat SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero in stoppage time. Ilic connected on a pin-point cross by Isidro Martinez from right to left. SD Loyal now is 14-10-5 with 47 points, as it sits in second place, four points ahead of their next opponent, Orange County SC facing off on Wednesday night in Irvine, Calif.
“It was a great goal,” Donovan said about the equalizer by New Mexico. “It was a great cross and a great finish. We talked all week about how they scored, I think, a third of their goals on set pieces. It didn’t come off the first part of the set piece but on the second phase. We were very good the entire match and the last moment we weren’t. Give them credit. It’s probably a great result.”
On Sunday, New Mexico pressured enough that it nearly scored on a few occasions earlier in the match. It got a free kick from just outside the SD Loyal penalty area. That’s where Chris Wehan fired his free kick but SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero made a diving save, gliding from right to left to block the shot in the 54th minute of a match that had a postseason feel to it.
“This was a playoff like game,” Guerrero said. “It’s the end of the season and everyone is fighting everyone to make the playoffs. They’re fighting and have their hopes (to get in) and we are trying to get the best seed possible, so, it felt like a playoff game. To me it was a playoff game.”
Guerrero finished with seven saves, including one in the 83rd when he came off his line to face Wehan and slap away a volley attempt over his head.
Guerrero also had a standout save in the 33rd minute when he slapped a ball away at his line, denying New Mexico’s Andrew Tinari. Guerrero appeared to be headed to a sixth shutout of the season, but it was denied by Ilic’s goal.
Guido, who set up Martinez’ goal, was denied a couple goals of his own. The SD Loyal midfielder hit the crossbar twice. Once in each half. The Chula Vista native sent a left-footed volley from inside the penalty box and crashed it on the woodwork on the east side of the field. Tambakis, the New Mexico goalkeeper jumped on the ball to end the play. Guido hit the other crossbar in the 51st minute after Corey Hertzog found him alone, but New Mexico defender, Rashid Tetteh deflected the ball at the line.
SD Loyal now has a crucial road match this Wednesday at Orange County Oct. 20 in a midweek game – if San Diego gets the three points it clinches the second spot over Orange County, but a draw keeps both clubs in contention for the key spot in the Pacific Division. SD Loyal closes out their three matches in seven days with the final home regular season match as they host Oakland Roots Oct. 24. SD Loyal finishes the regular season at Sacramento Republic six days later.
1-0: SD (61′) Douglas Martinez Jr. (Assist: Alejandro Guido)
1-1: NM (90+) Ilija Ilic (Assist: Isidro Martinez)
SD Loyal -1. Austin Guerrero, 33. Callum Montgomery (57′- 28. Blake Bodily), 27. Douglas Martinez Jr (67′ -7. Jack Blake)., 5. Grant Stoneman, 14. Josh Yaro 3. Elijah Martin, 24. Miguel Ibarra, 17. Collin Martin, 10. Alejandro Guido (85′- 19. Oliver Larraz), 21. Corey Hertzog (57′- 26. Augustine Williams) , 11. Tumi Moshobane (67′- Tumi Moshobane). (Coach: Landon Donovan.
New Mexico United -1. Alex Tambakis, 5. Josh Suggs, 22. Kalen Ryden, 3. Austin Yearwood, 15. Rashid Tetteh, 11. Sergio Rivas, 8. Juan Guzman (52′ -19. Saalih Muhammad), 20. Andrew Tinari, 25. Daniel Bruce, 41. Chris Wehan, 10. Amando Moreno. Coach: Troy Lesesne
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