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Gamethread: Tacoma Defiance v. Portland Timbers 2

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Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 7:00 PM on ESPN+, Tacoma Defiance face Portland Timbers 2 for a rescheduled match.

Tacoma Defiance get the opportunity to put a stop to their four-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they play the first of two games within a week against Portland Timbers 2. This match has been rescheduled twice, most recently due to a possible COVID-19 case within the Timbers 2 group. The postponement now provides Defiance with an opportunity to regroup ahead of the home stretch of their 2020 season. In a strange and difficult season, Portland remain the only side that Tacoma has beaten.

Tacoma (2-6-1, -2) are on the outside looking in at the playoff race, currently sitting 14 points behind Sacramento Republic FC with seven games left to play. Portland (0-10-0, -28) are much worse, and will be playing without their top prospect, Carlos Anguiano, who received a red card for violent conduct against Reno 1868 FC on Saturday.

While these next two games aren’t going to get Tacoma into position for a place in the playoffs, that doesn’t mean there’s no value to be found in them. Tacoma are still learning to play without their talisman, having released midfielder Jesse Daley, and they have struggled of late to get their offense clicking. The pair of games against Timbers 2 will offer Chris Little’s side the chance to work some of those kinks out and to determine who should be the more defensively-minded midfielder in their double-pivot.

Some potential help could come in the form of recently signed and loaned players for Tacoma. Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Ethan Dobbelaere are both on loan from the Seattle Sounders First Team, and while both have seen the field neither has been able to make much of an impact in their relatively brief time back with Tacoma. Similarly, Tacoma has signed three Sounders Academy products since play resumed in July — centerback Eric Kinzner, midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting, and fullback/winger Alex Villanueva — and while Baker-Whiting and Villanueva have both shown their quality in limited minutes, all three could be called upon as Little strikes a balance between playing for results today and building toward the future.

Keys to the Match

  • Put the ball in the net: This one’s obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. In Friday night’s game against Real Monarchs, Tacoma were shut out for the first time in just under a year. Defiance’s first three games following the league’s return to play may look like a bit of a fluke with the context of their four games since, but they did show what the attack was capable of when in their full flow. They need to find that flow again.
  • Strong CB play: The lone goal allowed in Utah put aside, Tacoma’s CBs had one of their best games of the season last Friday. Sam Rogers, in particular, showed the kind of impact he can have on a game for Tacoma with his aggressive tackling and his ability to beat opposing players with a pass or on the dribble. It’s important that losing in spite of that good play doesn’t shatter that confidence.
  • Bragging rights: It’s not been an easy season for Tacoma Defiance. There’s no sense in downplaying the impacts of playing as professional athletes during a pandemic, a social uprising, and now historically bad wildfires. However much that has affected the players of Defiance, they also find themselves with little to play for at this point in the season. What they do have, though, is local pride as they play their rivals and strive to ensure that Portland Timbers 2 remain wholly defeated for at least another two games.

Lineups

Changes galore, including Eric Kinzner’s first start. A full compliment on the bench for Tacoma, as well.

For the Li’l’ Timbers.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 7 PM PT

Location: Providence Park, Portland, Oregon

Streaming: ESPN+ (affiliate link)

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