It’s a sellout for the first home playoff match for San Diego Loyal SC, as they take on Oakland Roots SC at 7 p.m. Sunday at Torero Stadium.
The team led the west with 68 goals in a season in which “the third-year club (became) a proper contender for the first time,” according to the USL Championship league, with players like Kyle Vassell, Jack Blake and Alejandro Guido leading the way.
Although the Loyal closed the regular season with a 4-0 loss at Sacramento Republic FC Saturday, the club had a franchise-best 18-10-6 record and 60 points.
That was good enough for second-place finish in the Western Conference standings behind San Antonio FC, which ended the season with a league-leading 24-5-5 record and 77 points.
“We need to make sure we’re competing next week and we will,” coach Landon Donovan said of the coming quarterfinal match.
Vassell led Loyal FC with 14 goals, fifth in the conference. Thomas Amang followed with 11. Charlie Adams had eight assists, to tie for third in the conference.
Goalkeeper Koke Vegas had 74 saves, also tied for third in the conference.
Oakland (11-10-13, 46 points), which finished in seventh place, is led by Óttar Magnús Karlsson, who came in second in the conference with 19 goals. The Roots lost 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to end the year, on the heels of a five-game winning streak that helped them clinch the west’s final postseason berth.
The league places the Loyal’s prospects for a title at 7%. But take heart: Orange County SC was given a 4% chance to win it all when last year’s playoffs began yet ultimately the team set aside the favorites to do just that.
San Antonio tops the favorites with a 27% chance, followed closely by Louisville, best in the Eastern Conference, at 25%.
History might also be a guide, however. Since the USL conference began in 2015, the team with the best record in the West has never reached the championship final. This year’s final takes place Nov. 13.
The Loyal match will be broadcast locally in English on The CW San Diego.
The broadcast will also be available in Spanish on Azteca America 33, and will stream nationally on ESPN+.