A member of the "Blue Brigade" hypes up the 1868 crowd prior to the teams match versus San Diego Loyal SC. The "Blue Brigade" is the die-hard fan section for the 1868 FC.
Ryan Freeberg/Nevada Sagebrush A member of the “Battleborn Brigade” hypes up the 1868 crowd prior to the teams match versus San Diego Loyal SC. The “Battleborn Brigade” is the die-hard fan section for the 1868 FC.

Reno 1868 FC kicked off the 2020 season with a 4-2 loss in a preseason friendly against San Diego Loyal SC on Feb. 29 at Greater Nevada Field. 

Coming off club records with 18 wins and 60 goals last season, Reno is poised for another strong campaign. Its regular season begins Friday, March 6 in a road match against the Tacoma Defiance.

“We’re feeling good. All of preseason has been guys feeling each other out and getting used to playing with each other,” Reno defender Brent Richards said. “We’ve gotten a lot better defensively and we’re starting to work on getting better offensively. We’re excited and I think we’ll be ready for the start of the season.”

Reno experienced some offensive rust in its first action of the year, mustering six shots on goal in the loss. Forward Corey Hertzog served as Reno’s offensive spark plug with a game-high two goals on the day. 

Hertzog scored a career-high 19 goals for Reno last season, surpassing a club record set by Dane Kelly in 2017. The 29-year-old is off to a hot start following the preseason match against San Diego. 

“As a goal scorer, you just want to get that first one,” Hertzog said. “Once you do, it’s like a monkey off your back. Last season it took a while, but I’m coming into this year confident and hopefully I can bang one in.” 

San Diego Loyal SC manager Landon Donavon and Reno 1868 FC head coach Ian Russell won two MLS Cups together as members of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003. 

Donavon’s San Diego club displayed plenty of speed and quickness on the pitch. The Loyal scored three goals in the first 30 minutes and tacked on another goal for good measure late in the second half to halt Reno’s comeback. 

San Diego struck first at the 6:40 mark. Loyal forward Qudus Lawlal landed a header that bounced into the back of the net for a goal. Eric Avila tacked on another goal in San Diego’s favor at the 23:32 mark. 

The Loyal took a dominant 3-0 advantage off the leg of midfielder Charlie Adams at the 29:56 mark. Reno answered with Hertzog’s late tap-in goal at the 42:56 mark, forward Aiden Apodaca assisted on the play. 

Reno trailed San Diego 3-1 at halftime. 

Hertzog converted on a penalty attempt to trim Reno’s deficit 3-2 at the 47:56 mark. San Diego answered with a late goal at the 73:08 mark to go up 4-2. Reno couldn’t regain its offensive rhythm and a late comeback was shut down by the San Diego defense. 

Reno will look to shake off the loss and focus on the regular-season debut against Tacoma. 1868 FC assistant coach Chris Malenab sees lots of potential in this year’s club. 

“It’s great to have guys that know and defend the culture Ian (Russell) has built the last few seasons,” he said. “Bringing in some young guys and new faces is good and it’s changing the outlook of what we’re trying to accomplish.” 

Isaiah Burrows can be reached at rfreeberg@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.