San Diego Loyal SC will play host to Phoenix Rising FC on Sunday in one of the best current rivalries in the USL Championship. | Photo courtesy Ben Nichols / San Diego Loyal SC
One of the major rivalries in the USL Championship over recent years reignites on Sunday afternoon in San Diego, highlighting a tripleheader of action to conclude the second week of the season.
The day also includes the defending title holders heading for an interconference clash against the most surprising winner from the opening week, and two sides in search of their first win to close out the night in Texas.
Here’s a look ahead to all the action.
Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LDN 21%, SA 54%, Draw 24%
The Lowdown: San Antonio FC will look to make it two wins out of two to start the season as it visits another club that claimed all three points in its opener last weekend in Loudoun United FC. Entering the club’s new era under Attain Sports & Entertainment, Loudoun claimed a 3-1 victory against Memphis 901 FC last weekend in maybe the biggest surprise of Week 1’s slate as Zach Ryan notched two goals and one assist to lead the side to victory at AutoZone Park after Tommy Williamson had scored the opening goal of the season. United could welcome a sellout crowd for its home opener as it faces San Antonio for the second time, with SAFC having claimed a 2-1 win at Toyota Field last August. San Antonio is also coming off a 3-1 victory in its 2023 opener as Lamar Batista had a dream debut with two highlight-reel goals after Niko Hansen had opened the scoring. The visitors will be aiming to continue an eight-game undefeated streak in the Championship’s regular season that stretches into last season.
Loudoun United FC – Cole Turner: The club’s co-captain alongside Zach Ryan, Turner will need to put in a strong performance in the center of defense after recording three interceptions and three blocked shots last time out.
San Antonio FC – Kimarni Smith: An offseason arrival at San Antonio, Smith could face his former club on Sunday afternoon having recorded three goals in 29 appearances for Loudoun while on loan from D.C. United in the past two seasons.
Venue: Torero Stadium
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SD 44%, PHX 32%, Draw 25%
The Lowdown: San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC will renew their rivalry at Torero Stadium with the hosts aiming to build on an opening-weekend victory and their recent successes against Rising FC in the series between the clubs. SD Loyal claimed victory in both of the regular season contests between the sides last year including a 3-0 victory last September at Torero Stadium that saw Jackson Simba score his first professional goal. The 19-year-old center back proved the difference last weekend for San Diego as he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win against Detroit City FC to open the season, earning Team of the Week honors in the process. The hosts will try to open a campaign with consecutive victories for the second consecutive year on Sunday against a Phoenix side that earned a 1-1 draw with the Charleston Battery in its opener. Danny Trejo scored the equalizer on his debut for Rising FC, and the visitors will arrive with a new attacking piece in the squad after Phoenix acquired Jackson Conway on loan from Atlanta United FC this week.
San Diego Loyal SC – Alejandro Guido: After serving a one-game suspension that carried over from last year’s playoffs in The Locals’ supporters section, Guido will be looking to make an impact after scoring a game-winner against Phoenix last season in his potential 2023 debut.
Phoenix Rising FC – Federico Varela: The Argentine playmaker will want to have a bigger impact for his new club after a quiet debut in Charleston in which he didn’t register a shot or a chance created individually.
Venue: H-E-B Park
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: RGV 45%, OAK 27%, Draw 28%
The Lowdown: Rio Grande Valley FC and Oakland Roots SC will both be hoping to claim their first victory of the new season as Oakland returns to Texas for a second consecutive outing to start the campaign. Roots SC fell 3-1 to defending title holder San Antonio FC last Saturday night at Toyota Field as Memo Diaz’s second-half goal wasn’t enough to spark a second-half comeback for the visitors. Roots SC has yet to claim victory in two prior meetings with the Toros in their short series history, with the teams ending in a 2-2 draw when they last met last June at Oakland’s Laney Stadium. The Toros, though, will be hoping to emulate the victory they earned when the sides last squared off in South Texas as they look to build on a 1-1 draw against Las Vegas Lights FC last Sunday night that saw Ricky Ruiz score a spectacular finish to pull the hosts level after conceding an early own goal.
Rio Grande Valley FC – Taylor Davila: While he suffered the misfortune of an unlucky own goal in his Toros debut, Davila was impressive otherwise as he completed 39 of 45 passes and had two chances created, and his influence should be important again.
Oakland Roots SC – Napo Matsoso: The central midfielder was solid defensively against San Antonio, winning 4 of 5 tackles and 7 of 9 duels, and will need to try and break up the Toros’ passing rhythm this time out.