Tacoma Defiance will face their toughest challenge so far since returning to action in July. Reno 1868 FC (3-1-0, +5) enter Saturday night’s game in first place in Group A, two points ahead of Tacoma with a game in hand. These two teams met in the opening game of the season, where Reno responded to Chris Hegardt’s opener with three unanswered goals as they beat the Defiance 3-1 back on March 6.
Since the restart Reno’s had one loss and two wins, with the loss coming in their first game back — a 1-0 game against Sacramento Republic FC — and wins against Portland Timbers 2 and Las Vegas Lights FC. Tacoma, meanwhile, have two wins and a draw since returning to action. Their 3-3 game against Sacramento was a tale of two halves, and they followed that up with wins against Portland by margins of 3 and 4 to 0. Reno is a strong team that plays fast and direct, and they beat Tacoma handily the last time the two met. While Tacoma should be wary of their opponent, they can take confidence from their results so far, and from the fact that they’ve ended up with better results against their shared opponents than Reno have since the restart.
There is plenty of familiarity between the two teams, with connections throughout the roster. Possibly most notably, former Sounder Tony Alfaro has returned from his time in Mexico with Chivas de Guadalajara to join Reno. He played when the two sides met in March, and is likely to see the field again. Former draft pick Tucker Bone also plays for Reno these days, as well.
Tonight’s game will serve as a serious test of the men in black. A win would not only be a statement of the quality and growth of this team, but it would also propel them to first place in their group. Any result would go a ways to showing that the two wins against Portland were more than just a fluke or beating up on a weak opponent.
Keys to the Match
- Lockdown defense: Tacoma are riding a 233 minute shutout streak as they go into this game. That’s come on the back of strong defense, even if it hasn’t always been the cleanest. If they can limit the danger from Reno’s aggressive attack, they’ll have a chance to leave town with a result, and if they can stretch that shutout streak then that’s even better.
- Capitalize on mistakes: Reno’s attack leaves plenty of opportunities for a team that can play in quick transition, an area of the game where Tacoma’s attack thrives. When Reno makes a mistake in midfield or turns the ball over to the Defiance defense, they need to make the most of those chances. Sounders fans will know that Tony Alfaro has a few mistakes in him, and pressure from the Defiance attack should create opportunities as well.
- Limit the fouls: Tacoma have conceded plenty of fouls in their last three games, but fortunately haven’t been punished much for them up to this point. Reno’s style means that if those fouls come they’re more likely to earn cards as players break up attacking opportunities or possibly deny a goal-scoring opportunity. A poorly timed foul could leave Defiance down a man and struggling to hold back a talented opponent.
Abdoulaye Cissoko starts in place of Antonee Burke, and Collin Fernandez starts in place of Jesse Daley, while Chris Hegardt is in the Defiance’s short bench.
Alfaro and Bone both start for Reno.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, August 8, 7:30 PM PT
Location: Greater Nevada Field, Reno, Nevada