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San Diego Loyal ends four-season run with overtime playoff loss

Collin Martin of San Diego Loyal SC during a game in an undated photo.
San Diego Loyal SC
Collin Martin of San Diego Loyal SC during a game in an undated photo.

San Diego Loyal SC's hopes of being "buried with the cup" ended Sunday night with a 4-3 overtime loss to Phoenix Rising FC in a USL Championship Western Conference quarterfinal at Torero Stadium.

Dariusz Formella scored the game-winner four minutes into stoppage time in what was supposed to be a 15-minute second overtime segment on a shot from about one yard inside the penalty area for his second goal of the game.

The Loyal forced the overtime when Ronaldo Damus scored on a penalty kick seven minutes into second-half stoppage time for his third goal of the game.


Referee Elvis Osmanovic awarded the penalty kick after ruling defender Mohamed Traore had fouled forward Tumi Moshobane in the penalty area. Traore was issued a yellow card for what Osmanovic considered a bad foul.

The game was the last for the Loyal which announced Aug. 24 that it will fold following the conclusion of the season after chairman Andrew Vassiliadis and President Ricardo Campos determined there was no viable way to keep the club operating with a Major League Soccer team set to begin play in San Diego in 2025.

Before the team's final regular-season home game — a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Roots SC Oct. 7 — the team's fan groups The Locals and Chavos de Loyal raised a large choreographed display known as a tifo declaring "Bury Us With The Cup."

The Loyal began play in 2020.

Rising goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo made two of his four saves in overtime, stopping a left-footed shot by Evan Conway from the center of the penalty area box in the first minute of the first overtime segment and a header by Moshobane four minutes later.


Formella gave Phoenix a 3-2 lead in the 51st minute when he put a right-footed shot from about 13 yards out inside the right goalpost.

Damus opened the scoring in the sixth minute, controlling a cross from Joe Corona from just outside the 6-yard box, then putting a right-footed shot from the middle of the penalty area past Rios Novo.

The goal was the Loyal's first in postseason play. They had been shut out in their conference quarterfinal losses in 2021 and 2022.

Phoenix tied the score in the 19th minute on Panos Armenakas' penalty kick. Osmanovic awarded the penalty kick after ruling Loyal forward Adrien Perez had fouled Rising forward Danny Trejo in the penalty area.

The Loyal regained the lead in the 25th minute when Damus took a pass from Conway and put a left-footed shot from the center of the penalty area into the bottom right corner of the net.

Phoenix re-tied the score in the 42nd minute when Trejo put a shot through the legs of goalkeeper Koke Vegas into the unguarded net. Vegas had rushed to the top of the penalty area in an attempt to challenge Trejo, who scored a team-high 17 goals in the regular season.

Both teams took 18 shots. The Rising led 9-7 in shots on target. Vegas made five saves.

The Loyal concluded the regular season with five victories and a tie in its final six games, improving to 16-9-9 for 57 points, matching Orange County SC for second in the Western Conference, but the Loyal was seeded third because Orange County outscored it 3-2 in two games, the second tiebreaker.

The Rising was winless in its final five regular-season games, with back-to-back losses which following three ties, dropping from fourth to sixth in the 12-team conference with a 12-10-12 record.

The Loyal was 1-0-1 against Phoenix in the regular season, winning 3-0 March 19 at Torero Stadium and tying 2-2 April 1 in the first game at Phoenix Rising Stadium.

Phoenix advances to a conference semifinal Saturday at Orange County SC which defeated El Paso Locomotive FC 1-0 in another conference quarterfinal Saturday.