San Diego, CA–Thomas Amang spent most of the offseason coming to training, doing his work, quietly. He wasn’t quiet Saturday night. He helped his new team to its first win in a home opener.
The 24-year-old striker was the difference in San Diego Loyal’s 2-1 win against LA Galaxy II in the 2022 USL Championship season opener in front of a rowdy crowd of 5,014 at Torero Stadium. The nifty striker from Cameroon was part of both scoring plays for the home team in a wild finish.
Amang, who came to San Diego through a trade, gave SD Loyal a 1-0 lead but then again was part of the second scoring play that was officially called an own goal by LA Galaxy II.
On his first goal, Amang, who stands at 5-foot-9, sifted between defenders to an open area in the penalty box where he slid to tap in a Tumi Moshobane touch in the 78th minute. Amang sent the ball past LA Galaxy II goalkeeper Richard Sanchez and sent the crowd into a frenzy for the first goal of the season. The crowd erupted again when Jalen Neal sent a ball into his own net, seven minutes into stoppage time. Amang got a piece of the ball before it was redirected into the net by the Los Dos player.
“When Tumi received the ball I then I knew he would hit it to me and then I just did a one-touch and it went in,” Amang said with a smile. “But this was a tough one. We created a lot of chances but we couldn’t make it. Our team was different in the second half and the most important thing was for us to get the three points in the end.”
Coach Landon Donovan’s team got three points instead of one.
LA Galaxy II tied the match between Western Conference rivals with an 84th minute goal by Preston Judd moments after Amang’s first goal. The Los Dos forward took a quick ball on a counterattack, beat a pair of defenders, and sent a low rolling ball past SD Loyal goalkeeper Koke Vegas.
The goal quieted the crowd after it watched SD Loyal play to an upbeat rhythm and fluid brand of soccer for most of the match. Donovan’s team held possession creating chances from early in the Week 1 match.
Moshobane was one of the first to attack. That attack came when he took a bouncing ball near the heart of the penalty box, made a half-turn, and fired a shot. But Sanchez, the LA Galaxy goalkeeper, was positioned well at his line to catch the ball into his abdomen for the save.
SD Loyal had another chance a couple of minutes later. New striker Kyle Vassell headed a free kick by Charlie Adams just wide of the left post.
Then the home side thought it had scored in the 19th minute. Vassell sneaked behind defenders and slid in the box to tap the ball past Sanchez. Nick Moon had sent a pinpoint low cross to the right on the run. The goal was disallowed. Vassell was whistled offside.
Moshobane also nearly scored for the home side in the 24th minute. The South African charged the LA Galaxy II goal as he tried to connect a header off another Moon cross from the left. Moshobane couldn’t get to it in time and didn’t get a clean head on the ball, sending it over the crossbar.
SD Loyal came out with the same intensity on the attack in the second half. Vasselll charged from the right side and fired a shot that Sanchez had to jump and block with both hands to send it over the bar. The continuous pressuring paid off. It resulted in Amang’s goal, one that will go into the record books as the first for SD Loyal in its third season.
“That was a real soccer crowd tonight. It felt like a real atmosphere like I was in Europe or playing for the Galaxy,” Donovan said about the atmosphere to start the season. “It was a great night. I am proud of our guys. Over the course of the game, we just wore them out. On the last play, they were just tired and couldn’t react.”
LA Galaxy, who finished the match with 10 men after Remi Cabral was ejected in the 82nd minute, took advantage of the counterattack to tie the match. And then came Amang to help with SD Loyal’s second goal.
SD Loyal will host Sacramento Republic FC on March 19 at Torero Stadium at 7 p.m. in its second match of the season. The first 2,000 fans will receive a free SD Loyal limited edition community scarf. Tickets are available now starting at $15.