Sal Zizzo: “When Landon [Donovan] called and told me about the opportunity, I didn’t hesitate; it was worth returning to the game.”(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

SAN DIEGO – Former Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo became the first player signed by the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club, the USL Championship team announced Wednesday.

The San Diego native signing is pending league and federation approval.

“From the moment we started the process of building a team, we wanted to sign players who would be loyal to our soil and bleed San Diego through and through,” SD Loyal EVP of soccer operations and manager Landon Donovan said. “Nobody embodies those values more than Sal. We couldn’t be more excited for our first signing to be a San Diegan who cares about this community deeply.”

Zizzo brings more than 11 years of professional soccer experience to SD Loyal. After a college career at UCLA where he was selected as Pac-10 freshman player of the year, he represented the U.S. in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup. In 2007, he signed with Bundesliga club Hannover 96 for a three-year contract.

He returned stateside in 2010 and began a Major League Soccer career with Chivas USA, Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, Red Bulls and most recently Atlanta United. During his MLS career, Zizzo was a member of the MLS Cup champion Atlanta United in 2018 and was on the Red Bulls’ 2015 MLS Supporters’ Shield side.

“When Landon called and told me about the opportunity, I didn’t hesitate; it was worth returning to the game,” Zizzo said. “San Diego is a big city with a ton of soccer talent. When you grow up playing soccer here, you learn at a young age how to take the game as far as you want. And, being so close to Mexico also gives a bit of creativity and flair to the game. Playing professionally in my hometown is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m excited to grow and play in the city that I know so well.”

Zizzo will reside in Chula Vista with his wife and three daughters.

San Diego’s first regular season home match is scheduled to take place in early March at Torero Stadium.