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Loyal to the beautiful game of soccer

“The harder my life gets, the more I watch soccer”

The Loyal begin their first-ever game at home.
The Loyal begin their first-ever game at home.

My friend Bill used to pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket. Then, “in January of 2017, the Chargers announced they were leaving, the Patriots won the Super Bowl again, and I said, ‘That’s it. I’m getting the kids into soccer.’” Bill’s mom is Argentinean; back in ’86, he sat on her lap and watched Maradona & Co. win the World Cup. “So it went deep. Today, I can’t watch Argentina play; I’ll start shaking. So I’ll tape it and watch after I know the final score.”

But Argentina is a long way away. When Bill heard that the USL was planning an expansion team in San Diego, he joined the focus groups that helped decide on the team’s name (Loyal), colors (Torrey pine green and sunset orange), and logo (a soccer ball sun sinking toward a tumultuous ocean). He attended the kit reveal to see the inaugural uniform and sponsor (Stone Brewing). He joined the supporters group, The Locals, and picked up a scarf featuring its mascot, former Town Dog Bum. (There’s a statue of the three-legged half-St. Bernard/half-Spaniel in the Gaslamp.) He started listening to the various podcasts devoted to the team’s formation and future. (“The Unnamed Soccer Podcast is the best of them.”)

And of course, he attended the team’s first home game on February 22 at USD: a friendly against Panama’s Costa del Este. I joined him, marveling at the merch for a team that just barely existed ($75 for a hoodie, $50 for a kids’ tee, $25 for a trucker cap), at the branding in the pregame video (Loyal to our soil, to my tribe, to my country, to my city, to my friends, to my family…), and at the practiced chants echoing from the Locals’ section behind the goal.

“The harder my life gets, the more I watch soccer.”

“The harder my life gets, the more I watch soccer,” Bill said. “It’s a much better coping mechanism than other things. With my mom in the hospital, I’m watching three games some days. Something about the game pulls me back to a time when things were simpler. Before my parents got divorced, before I had responsibilities of my own. To me, soccer is play, its a return to the innocence of sitting around my elementary school cafeteria and choosing our team name (The Blasters!), or hearing my mom scream at the players on TV. What I wouldn’t give to hear her do that again.”

It wasn’t a brilliant game, but the Loyal’s Jack Metcalf did manage a goal in the 44th minute, and there was some talky drama surrounding Irvin Parra that earned the forward a red card at minute 60. “Now I’ll have to tune into the podcast to see what that red card was about,” said Bill. “Because even though it doesn’t matter, I want to know.”

The red left the Loyal a man down, and their gameplay shifted into an effort to preserve that 1-0 lead. They packed the defense, but Costa del Este still managed several rocketed near misses as the fans trickled out. “That’s San Diego for you, leaving beforehand,” sighed Bill. “That’s why I wonder if they’re going to get it” — if they’ll ever love soccer enough to support a team. “It’d be good if this ended 1-1. It would let the fans know that that’s what soccer is about: 1-1 ties. That’s okay with me, if it’s a beautiful game.” For better or worse, the Loyal hung on to win; they’ll face the Las Vegas Lights for their first official game on March 7.

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The Loyal begin their first-ever game at home.
The Loyal begin their first-ever game at home.

My friend Bill used to pay for the NFL Sunday Ticket. Then, “in January of 2017, the Chargers announced they were leaving, the Patriots won the Super Bowl again, and I said, ‘That’s it. I’m getting the kids into soccer.’” Bill’s mom is Argentinean; back in ’86, he sat on her lap and watched Maradona & Co. win the World Cup. “So it went deep. Today, I can’t watch Argentina play; I’ll start shaking. So I’ll tape it and watch after I know the final score.”

But Argentina is a long way away. When Bill heard that the USL was planning an expansion team in San Diego, he joined the focus groups that helped decide on the team’s name (Loyal), colors (Torrey pine green and sunset orange), and logo (a soccer ball sun sinking toward a tumultuous ocean). He attended the kit reveal to see the inaugural uniform and sponsor (Stone Brewing). He joined the supporters group, The Locals, and picked up a scarf featuring its mascot, former Town Dog Bum. (There’s a statue of the three-legged half-St. Bernard/half-Spaniel in the Gaslamp.) He started listening to the various podcasts devoted to the team’s formation and future. (“The Unnamed Soccer Podcast is the best of them.”)

And of course, he attended the team’s first home game on February 22 at USD: a friendly against Panama’s Costa del Este. I joined him, marveling at the merch for a team that just barely existed ($75 for a hoodie, $50 for a kids’ tee, $25 for a trucker cap), at the branding in the pregame video (Loyal to our soil, to my tribe, to my country, to my city, to my friends, to my family…), and at the practiced chants echoing from the Locals’ section behind the goal.

“The harder my life gets, the more I watch soccer.”

“The harder my life gets, the more I watch soccer,” Bill said. “It’s a much better coping mechanism than other things. With my mom in the hospital, I’m watching three games some days. Something about the game pulls me back to a time when things were simpler. Before my parents got divorced, before I had responsibilities of my own. To me, soccer is play, its a return to the innocence of sitting around my elementary school cafeteria and choosing our team name (The Blasters!), or hearing my mom scream at the players on TV. What I wouldn’t give to hear her do that again.”

It wasn’t a brilliant game, but the Loyal’s Jack Metcalf did manage a goal in the 44th minute, and there was some talky drama surrounding Irvin Parra that earned the forward a red card at minute 60. “Now I’ll have to tune into the podcast to see what that red card was about,” said Bill. “Because even though it doesn’t matter, I want to know.”

The red left the Loyal a man down, and their gameplay shifted into an effort to preserve that 1-0 lead. They packed the defense, but Costa del Este still managed several rocketed near misses as the fans trickled out. “That’s San Diego for you, leaving beforehand,” sighed Bill. “That’s why I wonder if they’re going to get it” — if they’ll ever love soccer enough to support a team. “It’d be good if this ended 1-1. It would let the fans know that that’s what soccer is about: 1-1 ties. That’s okay with me, if it’s a beautiful game.” For better or worse, the Loyal hung on to win; they’ll face the Las Vegas Lights for their first official game on March 7.

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It would be fun to have a major league soccer team in San Diego, bringing people together witnessing the beautiful game. We were close once, but ended up with SDSU spilling down into Mission Valley instead of getting a River Park and right-sized soccer stadium and residential and commercial development. There could be more to San Diego life than another expansion of the Convention Center.

March 5, 2020
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March 7, 2020

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