USL Championship soccer
Jack Blake recorded an assist, his fifth of the year, in SD Loyal’s 2-1 win Saturday. Photo credit: @SanDiegoLoyal via Twitter

San Diego Loyal SC secured its first-ever home playoff match Saturday after defeating Las Vegas Lights FC 2-1 on the road.

The San Diego region will play host to its first postseason USL Championship match the weekend of Oct. 21-23 with tickets already on sale.

SD Loyal (18-9-4, 58 points) earned a home playoff match in only its third season after clinching its second-consecutive postseason berth in last week’s 3-0 home win over Phoenix Rising.

The Loyal jumped to a quick lead Saturday with early goals by Kyle Vassell and Elijah Martin.

Vassell’s goal came 16 seconds into the match. He gave his team a 1-0 lead when he took the kickoff and sped past Las Vegas defender Antonio Leone, leaving him one-on-one with goalkeeper Abraham Romero.

The English striker slotted his opportunity into the Las Vegas net for his team-leading 14th goal this season and the fastest goal in club history. It was also the quickest score in the league for the year.

Three minutes later, Martin added to the Loyal lead with his first goal of 2022. The defender sent in a right-footed low shot off a cross from Jack Blake. Martin had not scored in nearly a year – since Oct. 2, 2021.

But Las Vegas (10-13-7, 32 points) pressured in the second half. Lights forward Daniel Trejo cut the SD Loyal lead to 2-1 when he poked in a pass by Daniel Crisostomo on a quick play inside the penalty area in the 71st minute. SD Loyal, though, held on for the victory.

Coach Landon Donovan conceded that his team “had moments that were good, but we weren’t at our best tonight.” But he added that he was proud of the team for “grinding and getting the result and now we get our first home playoff game in club history which is really exciting.”

With the win, SD Loyal remains in second place in the Western Conference standings behind San Antonio FC (22-5-4, 70 points), with three regular season matches to go.

The club will return home to begin preparing to visit Orange County SC on Oct. 1. After the Southern California rivalry match, SD Loyal plays host to New Mexico United in the last regular season home match on Oct. 9.

The club’s regular season finale is set for Oct. 15 at Sacramento Republic FC.



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Ellen Bullock