Monday night in Portland, Tacoma Defiance (2-1-2, +4) put themselves into second place in Group A as they beat Portland Timbers 2. The team outdid themselves from their previous meeting with Portland, when they won 3-0 at Cheney Stadium on July 18, by winning 4-0 on their rival’s home turf.
The win marks the third straight positive result — and second straight win — since the league’s restart. The result will hopefully serve as a confidence boost and the ideal send-off as the game in Portland kicked off a nine-game road trip. The road trip starts with four games in 12 days and features some stiff competition, although Tacoma will face Portland twice more over the course of the nine games. They’ll need to continue to get results against Portland, while also putting in convincing performances in tougher tests against teams like Reno 1868 FC and Real Monarchs.
Tacoma looked to be in control from the early stages of the game, with several good chances to find the opening goal before Alec Diaz ultimately kicked things off by putting away the rebound from a Marlon Vargas shot in the 23rd minute. Vargas had done well to drive at his defender on the right side of the box before forcing a save from Portland’s ‘keeper. From there, the Defiance never relented and never looked in much danger of relinquishing their lead. Possession ended up being relatively close — Tacoma had 52% to Portland’s 48% — but Tacoma dominated in almost every area that mattered. Beyond just their 4 goals to 0, Tacoma also won over 56% of their duels, 71% of their aerial duels, and while both sides took 14 shots Tacoma put 13 of theirs on frame compared to Portland’s measly 4.
Diaz was the star of the show against Portland. Diaz took four shots, all of them from inside the box and all of them on target, and scored two goals for his trouble. For good measure he also added an assist to Chino Pérez in the 72nd minute. Throw in four successful dribbles, and it’s clear why Chris Little has stuck with the 18-year-old through the first three games of the restart.
Diaz wasn’t the only one to get in on the fun, as Robles added another assist to his name when he found Taylor Mueller on a corner in the 40th minute, and Azriel Gonzalez picked up an assist on Diaz’s second goal in the 47th.
The goal from Pérez was his second of the season, putting him in second behind Diaz for goals scored for the Defiance in 2020. Diaz’s 4 goals has him tied for second in the league.
The game against Portland saw the return to the field for Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, who Tacoma Defiance announced had been loaned to the team from the Seattle Sounders for the remainder of 2020. Ocampo-Chavez traveled to Orlando with the Sounders for the MLS is Back Tournament but didn’t make the game day roster for any of the team’s games, so it was a welcome sight to see him sub on in the 74th minute.
It wasn’t all good news for Tacoma, though, as Antonee Burke had to come off in the 10th minute after seeming to injure his hamstring. Sota Kitahara, who had started in midfield alongside Jesse Daley, moved back to right back to replace Burke.
Tacoma’s next test will be Saturday, as they travel to play Reno 1868 FC, who will be playing on a full week’s rest after beating Las Vegas Lights FC 1-0 last Saturday. Reno, who are currently first in Group A (3-0-1, +6), will be difficult, but Tacoma go into that game on a strong run of form. The Defiance, for the first time since they began as S2 in 2015, had three consecutive games with 3+ goals scored in each with their 4-0 win against Portland, and also haven’t given up a goal in 233 minutes since Sacramento Republic FC scored in the 37th minute in their fist game of the restart. Whether they can extend either of those streaks remains to be seen, but they’ve certainly earned some faith in themselves to do so. You can watch as they take on Reno on Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 PM on ESPN+.