Phoenix Rising Continues Where It Left Off In Blowout Win Over San Diego Loyal
With 25 shots on goal compared to 3, Phoenix Rising outperformed and outshot Southern California’s USL Championship squad San Diego Loyal in the season opener in Arizona.
Defending USL Championship Western Conference Champion Phoenix Rising did not disappoint the fans attending the team’s first ever match at Wild Horse Pass Stadium in the Gila River Indian Community thanks to a 4-1 blowout win over San Diego Loyal on Friday night.
The pre-game festivities started off in a very different tone compared to the last time the two teams met back on September 30th, 2020 because of that now famous incident between former Phoenix Rising striker Junior Flemmings and San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin.
This time around the two teams joined together in the midfield to hold up a banner that read “Forever Proud” in support of the LGBTQ community.
In the days leading up to the match, USL HQ partners Common Goal announced their “Restorative Justice” program to create community, understanding, and reconciliation between San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising players around the homophobic incident and subsequent walk-off following last year’s match.
San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising also announced a series of LGBTQ+ inclusivity initiatives ahead of their season opening match. As for the game itself, San Diego Loyal seemed a little jittery from the start giving up possession quite easily amidst the pressure from Phoenix Rising. It took Trey Muse and the SD Loyal backline a few minutes to find their footing after a couple of early miscommunications led to turnovers which almost cost them a goal.
Muse, who took over goalkeeper duties from current DC United back up goalkeeper Jon Kempin, bounced right back with spectacular saves on striker Rufat Dadashov in the 13th and 15th minutes the first from point blank range and the other from a strike just outside the box that hit the post which he was able to get a fingertip on.
Even the first two Phoenix goals courtesy of midfielder Jon Bakero in the 39th minute and striker Santi Moar in 55th came off shots that Muse had originally saved but that the San Diego Loyal defense did not react fast enough on the ensuing rebounds.
“Today we were very very focused and I think that was the difference”, said Moar.
By the end of the first half Phoenix Rising had a 13 to 0 shot advantage against the visitors. San Diego Loyal head coach Landon Donovan brought in forward Ben Spencer early in the second half and his substitution paid quick dividends in the 65th minute after Spencer recovered a loose ball inside the box and put it in the back of the net to cut the deficit in half.
The home team would quickly recover however with a goal just two minutes later from forward Aodhan Quinn and would put the game away in the 80th minute off the foot of midfielder Kevon Lambert to seal 4-1 victory.
“Phoenix are a very good team and certainly deserved to win,” said Landon Donovan, head coach of San Diego Loyal.
San Diego Loyal now moves on to play another road game this time against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on May 6th while Phoenix Rising plays host to USL Championship newcomer Oakland Roots SC on May 8th.