Corey Hertzog will be moving farther from his hometown of Reading for the 2021 USL Championship season after joining the San Diego Loyal pending league and federation approval, the club announced last week.
“Since the day I started this job, I’ve had my eye on Corey and wanted to see him in Torrey Green,” Landon Donovan, EVP of Soccer Operations and First Team Manager said in a news release. “We are thrilled to have a player of his quality and experience join our team. His work ethic, goal-scoring ability, and leadership will be a huge asset to us for 2021 and beyond.”
Hertzog was one of Donovan’s initial targets prior to the Loyal’s inaugural season, however, the club waited for the striker to play out the remainder of his contract with Reno 1868 FC.
Speaking from his home in Reno, Hertzog said, “My agent told me Landon was going to call, and I said, ‘Landon who?’ He said, ‘Landon Donovan,’ and I said, ‘What?’ After, I called my mom and dad and told them Landon Donovan just called me. Then about five minutes later, I called them again and said, ‘Landon Donovan just called me!’ He’s somebody you look up to. When I heard him say he likes me and how I play, it’s a huge boost in confidence.”
Hertzog spent the last two seasons with Reno where he made 53 appearances and scored 27 goals, second in the club’s history. Reno finished the 2020 regular season as the top seed heading into the USL playoffs where they defeated the LA Galaxy II 4-1 in the opener before dropping a heartbreaker to Phoenix Rising on penalties. Hertzog had two goals and an assist to lead Reno against the Galaxy, scoring the club’s first playoff brace, and scored six minutes into the conference semifinal against Phoenix before his teammate Kevin Partida doubled the lead.
“Last season, losing in PKs was one of the worst feelings,” Hertzog said, “I thought we were the best team in USL, but we let them score before the half. It was the nail in the coffin. We just never got back on track.” Reno had a 2-1 lead at the half, then USL Player of the Year Solomon Asante tied the game in the 77th minute and Reno could not find the winner to advance. “I still think about it. I believed we could have gone all the way.”
Reno ceased operations after the season due to the financial impact of Covid-19. The former Penn State All-American and first round draft pick of the New York Red Bulls has amassed a prolific career in the USL and is now the league’s second all-time leading scorer with 73 goals, trailing only Dane Kelly of the Charlotte Independence. A three-time All-USL Team of the Year honoree, the 30-year-old Hertzog brings experience and leadership to a young Loyal squad in search of stability after a pandemic-disrupted first season. The Loyal finished 6-5-5 in 2020 with its final game of the season ending in controversy after one its players, Collin Martin, was sent off for retaliating toward a Phoenix player who’d called him an abusive name. The team refused to play the second half in protest. Martin’s card was rescinded, and the Phoenix player has since been suspended.
“I hope to bring another leadership role, help the young players out,” Hertzog said. “I’m looking forward to this season, joining some of the new signings and some of the players we brought back.”
The Loyal also announced the return of seven core players from last season as well as the addition of former Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele, who was a first- team All-USL member last year. Hertzog was named to the USL Team of the Week twice last season, playing mostly as a number 10, and will be looking to join the team after the new year once his living arrangements are in order.