TUKWILA, Wash. — Down in SoCal about two-thirds of Tacoma Defiance were tested against Atlanta United’s First Team. It was a big loss. But it was also the opportunity for players like Nick Hinds, Danny Levya and Azriel Gonzalez to start and to learn the difference between the top team in MLS and the USL Championship.
“I think it was a learning curve for him,” Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said after Tuesday’s practice about Hinds start at left back. “On the first goal he could have done a little bit better, but look, he was playing against some good guys. I think for Nick it was a good taste of what it’s like at the highest MLS level. Djimi is going to sit down with him and hopefully the kid learns and can figure some stuff out. He is a guy who played up a line, but where does he play if he makes it in MLS? Those are the questions he needs to fulfill.”
Hinds, Gonzalez and Levya were among the 14 Defiance or Academy players to appear in that preseason loss. Each is getting instruction from First Team coaches, not just Defiance coaches Little, Wade Weber and Josh Ford.
“We’re a club. That’s the wonderful part of having the Academy, the reserve team (Defiance) and the First Team is having guidance and different people with their wonderful experience and qualifications that can help,” Little said about the ability for his players to be taught by some of the world’s greatest even before they ever sign a First Team contract.
Despite the humbling nature of the loss, the teams still got individual film time with coaches Djimi Traore, Gonzalo Pineda and Preki. They are all legends in their home countries (maybe in a few others as well).
“It was fantastic for Danny, Azriel, Nick Hinds, Ray Serrano came in with the second group,” Little said. “From what I saw there’s a real opportunity in the challenge.”
Some of those players will get chances against Houston, Portland and Dallas. After that Defiance will spin back off from the Sounders and focus not just on development, but their own playing identity.
“After Arizona, once we get through that we’ll have a larger signed pool of players that we can hopefully get some tactical work done and a bigger training group.”
Defiance currently have 16 signed players and have the possibility to sign a few more.