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Tacoma Defiance send Juan Alvarez on loan to Austria and add a trio of players

Juan Alvarez joins FCPS on loan while Defiance add two draft picks and a veteran midfielder for 2023.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Tacoma Defiance announced a handful of roster moves Wednesday and Thursday. First, on Wednesday, the team announced that they have loaned midfielder Juan Alvarez to FZ Pinzgau Saalfelden — the Austrian third-division club where Sota Kitahara and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez spent time on loan in 2021 — for the remainder of their season, and exercised midfielder Fito Ovalle’s option for the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Alvarez, 18, made 23 regular-season appearances in 2023. He’ll have an opportunity to gain valuable experience in a new environment with FCPS, and then hopefully use that to propel himself forward when he rejoins his Defiance teammates later this year. FC Pinzgau Saalfelden have four remaining regular season games in their season, with the first coming on March 11. The team currently sits in third place, six points away from first place and promotion. Their season wraps up on April 1.

Ovalle, 25, joined Defiance last season, and went on to make 17 regular season appearances with 11 starts. Ovalle came up through Real Salt Lake’s system, spending time in the academy and with Real Monarchs but never made an MLS appearance. Since leaving RSL Ovalle’s been rather nomadic, spending time in four countries with six different teams. Him sticking around with Defiance allows him some stability — this would be the first time he’s spent more than one season with a team since leaving Utah — and provides Wade Webber with a consistent option at defensive midfield.

In addition to the moves announced on Wednesday, the team announced on Thursday that Eythor Bjørgolfsson and Blake Bowen, the two players selected by the Seattle Sounders in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, have both signed with Tacoma Defiance. The players will help to round out the squad, as they play positions of particular need for Defiance, while allowing the organization to closely manage and track their development.

Bjørgolfsson, 22, is a target forward with a build unlike any other attacker currently in the Sounders organization, checking in at 6’3” and 195 lbs. Originally from Jessheim, Norway, Bjørgolfsson spent 4 years at the University of Kentucky, where he accumulated 24 goals and 10 assists in 3,808 minutes (68 appearances with 43 starts), for an average of 0.8 goal contributions per 90 minutes. It seems like Bjørgolfsson is already making his presence felt, scoring from a Reed Baker-Whiting corner in a scrimmage before the Sounders left for Spain.

With open international roster spots on the First Team and no one else able to provide the unique physical traits and skill set of Bjørgolfsson, if he can impress with Tacoma he’s a player to watch going into the second half of the season.

Blake Bowen, also 22, is a midfielder-turned-fullback/wingback who joins Defiance after spending his college career at San Diego State University. He joins fellow former SDSU defender Elias Katsaros, and will almost certainly spend a fair amount of time playing with Jacob Castro, who also ended his college career at SDSU.

While there’s not a ton of video of Bowen’s time at SDSU, it’s easy to see understand the organization’s interest in converting him to a fullback or wingback in the mold of Alex Roldan. Although less attacking in his role at the college level than Roldan, Bowen still demonstrated a knack for finding himself in good attacking positions and picking out a decisive pass. With those skills honed as a midfielder, Bowen should have the motor and technical ability to contribute in possession and transition play the way the Sounders require from their wide defenders. He seems likely to push for a starting spot with Tacoma at right back/right wingback. There is also a shortage of defensive midfielders on the Defiance roster, which could also be a spot where we see him utilized.

Bjørgolfsson and Bowen’s signings brings the Tacoma Defiance roster to 16 players as the team begins preseason.

Current Tacoma Defiance roster by position (age)

Goalkeeper: Wallis Lapsley (25)

Defender: Cody Baker (19), Blake Bowen (22), Stuart Hawkins (16), Elias Katsaros (21), Gio Miglietti (23), Travian Sousa (21), Hal Uderitz (23)

Midfielder: Juan Alvarez* (18), Chris Aquino (16), Frank Daroma (21), Antonio Herrera (18), Georgi Minoungou (20), Fito Ovalle (25), Paul Rothrock (24)

Forward: Eythor Bjørgolfsson (22)

*Out on loan

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