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Gamethread: Tacoma Defiance vs. Portland Timbers 2

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Thursday, September 24 at 7 PM on ESPN+, Tacoma Defiance end their road trip in Portland.

Charis Wilson / Sounders FC Communications

Tacoma Defiance and Portland Timbers 2 will put on a sort of encore performance to last night’s Cascadia clash between the two sides’ first teams when they meet Thursday night in Portland. Tacoma and Portland have have had differing fortunes of late — Tacoma had lost seven straight games prior to the 3-3 draw against Sacramento Republic FC, while Portland had claimed two solid wins before losing 5-2 to Reno 1868 FC on Sunday — and Chris Little’s team will be hoping to make their most recent result a turning point. This game marks the end of nine straight road games for Defiance, who play the final three games of the season at home in the sadly empty confines of Cheney Stadium.

The draw against Sacramento doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While the team scoring three goals would certainly be seen as a positive in isolation, it came on the heels of a two-goal performance against Reno that saw Tacoma fall just short of a result against the Group A leaders. Tacoma’s attack is full of capable players, and getting them going again is a good sign for the home stretch.

This game, as well as the return game at Cheney on Sunday, should be interesting challenges for both coaches and their players. Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention, but that doesn’t really mean there’s anything less at stake between two local rivals both primarily focused on development. With a Defiance side filled with Sounders Academy players, they know what this game means.

Keys to the Match

Make fewer mistakes: When these teams met two weeks ago, a series of mistakes from the Defiance defense over the course of six minutes during the first half gave T2 a 3-0 lead. Tacoma never recovered in that game, and while things have looked a bit better recently, they’ve still given up three goals in both games since that one. It’s very hard to win when you give up that many goals.

Take control: Against Sacramento, Little started a midfield pair of Reed Baker-Whiting and Sota Kitahara. They held their own, as they largely have throughout the season, and put in solid work in possession while managing to not be overwhelmed physically, but against T2 the midfield will need to do more than that. Kitahara has nine starts in 10 appearances this season, with all but one of them coming as part of the double-pivot, which is more than any other player at that spot. Can he start to take control?

Make it rain: Look, I know that the thing for Cascadia games is “build a bonfire,” but with the wildfires — and all the smoke that came with them — so fresh in memory, I’m going with rain for the imagery this time. The attack seems like they’ve gotten going: Alec Diaz is back on the score sheet, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez picked up an assist, Ray Serrano has scored in two straight games. Keep it up, make it rain goals in Portland and keep building confidence.

Lineups

Alec Diaz is back in the Starting XI, but not many changes beyond that.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Thursday, September 24, 7:00 PM PT

Location: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon

Streaming: ESPN+ (affiliate link)

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