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Tacoma Defiance sign NYCFC first-round draft pick

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Jesús Pérez signs with Tacoma after spending preseason with USL team.

University of Illinois at Chicago Athletics Digital

Tacoma Defiance announced Wednesday evening that midfielder Jesús Pérez had signed with the USL Championship team. Pérez was selected in the first round of the MLS Super Draft by New York City FC as the 22nd pick of the draft, but didn’t last beyond the first couple weeks of preseason with the MLS team and joined Tacoma when they opened their own preseason training camp.

Jesús “Chino” Pérez, a native of Waukegan, Illinois, spent a year with the Chicago Fire Academy before starting his college career at Akron in 2016 where he played with his Tacoma Defiance teammate Nick Hinds.

Pérez only made 8 appearances for Akron before transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2017 where he was a key player in all three seasons he spent there. In his three seasons at UIC, he earned All-Horizon League First Team honors, and earned League Player of the Year in both 2018 and 2019. He had 14 goals and 28 assists across his three seasons at UIC, including the 2018 season when he led the NCAA with 12 assists.

Pérez is a versatile left-footed midfielder who will be another dynamic, creative player in the attack for Tacoma. As Sounders FC General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey puts it, he “can play multiple positions across the front four...he is a savvy passer that can score and set up his teammates.”

He’ll join similar players like Azriel Gonzalez, Shandon Hopeau, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Ray Serrano, and Marlon Vargas, who can all play almost any position in the attacking four, allowing for plenty of interchange and fluidity in the attack.

It should be noted that the reason Pérez was in preseason camp with NYCFC to begin with is a bit of a funny story, and maybe a cautionary tale about exaggerating or stretching the truth in your dating profile. Pérez had been on a trial in Ireland with Dundalk FC of the Irish Premier League, and things seemed to have gone well, as he added that he was a player for Dundalk FC to his Tinder profile. Someone who matched with him took a screenshot and shared it, which led to the end of his time with Dundalk.

It’s a funny anecdote, and it was probably an embarrassing experience for Pérez, but there are some positives to take from it. Pérez has the quality to earn a spot in a lower league in Europe, and he wants to prove that he’s more than just a funny anecdote.

CURRENT TACOMA DEFIANCE ROSTER

Defenders (6): Antonee Burke-Gilroy, Abdoulaye Cissoko, Nick Hinds, Taylor Mueller, Danny Reynolds, Sam Rogers

Midfielders (5): Josh Atencio, Jesse Daley, Collin Fernandez, Jesús Pérez, Danny Robles

Forwards (5): Alec Diaz, Azriel Gonzalez, Shandon Hopeau, Ray Serrano, Marlon Vargas