San Diego Loyal Pulls Dramatic Win vs Phoenix Rising, Stay Alive For Playoffs
The USL Championship team that calls America’s Finest City home is rising back in the ranks. Coached by America’s star soccer player, Landon Donovan, San Diego is currently on a five-game undefeated streak with three straight wins overall.
The intensity of Saturday night’s match between San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising in Arizona made it look more like a Copa Libertadores final than a USL Championship regular season match, but that’s exactly what it seemed like as San Diego came out with a 3-2 win thanks to a first-half hat trick from midfielder Rubio Rubin.
Rubin gave the visitors the lead in the third minute thanks to a right footed shot from inside the box courtesy of a beautiful give and go pass from defender Jack Metcalf.
The recently acquired player from Dorados de Sinaloa of Ascenso MX added another goal in the 12th minute from a left-footed missile from just outside the box which got by the outstretched arm of Phoenix goalkeeper Zac Lubin.
“We had to take care of business to get the win.”Rubio Rubin, San Diego Loya
At that point, it became evident that Landon Donovan‘s team was not going to be satisfied with a draw and knew the implications of coming out with the must win.
Phoenix would pull one back in the 41st minute courtesy of midfielder and USL Championship scoring leader Junior Flemmings who put one passed SD Loyal goalkeeper Jon Kempin who had made a fabulous save in the 23rd minute to keep the home team off the scoresheet.
Rubin would regain the momentum for his team to end the half however with his third goal with another left-footed shot that was deflected in after he broke through the defense on the left-hand side.
“The three points are important just like in Orange County and we are on to the next one,” said Rubin.
The second half was even fiercer with the home team coming out strong, trying to get back in the match with the final ten minutes of regulation providing as much drama that as Spanish soap opera with an alternate ending.
In the 80th minute, Kempin would suffer a groin injury and had to leave the game after crashing into two teammates as they were trying to win the ball inside the box.
Kempin, who still leads the league in the golden glove competition with the best goal against average, would be subbed out for Jake Fenalson.
The home team would take advantage and apparently score three minutes later off a header off striker Renat Dadashov, however it was called back due to the head referee claiming that he inadvertently made contact with the ball as Phoenix went on their counterattack. According to law #9 of the league rulebook, a ball is considered “out of play” the moment it strikes a match official. Phoenix would not be deterred and continued to put on the pressure with Flemmings scoring his second goal of the match and 13th goal this season in the 89th minute to pull his team within one.
A whopping 10 minutes of added time would be issued with Phoenix coming close on a couple of occasions to tie the match, but Fenalson who came in cold for Kempin was able to recover and quickly gather himself to keep the home team at bay.
“Great performance from our guys tonight”, said Kempin. “We stuck to the game plan and played as a team and proud of them for fighting through the heat for over 105 minutes. We still have work to do but we aren’t giving up…all eyes on playoffs.”
With the victory, San Diego Loyal is currently in second place of the group B standings.
SD Loyal has 22 points, only four points behind Phoenix with the two teams facing each other one last time on September 30th in San Diego.
It will be the final game of the season for San Diego Loyal and second to last for Phoenix Rising who play LA Galaxy II at on October 3rd in their final match.
Currently, LA Galaxy II is tied with Orange County SC with 21 points but having played one less match than Orange County.
San Diego is currently on a five-game undefeated streak with three straight wins overall next faces LA Galaxy II on Wednesday night at Dignity Health Sports Park where they hope to repeat their performance from September 9th when they beat “Los Dos” 3-0.