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Everything you need to know about Tacoma Defiance

Defiance restock roster for what promises to be another interesting season in MLS Next Pro.

Last Updated
4 min read

RENTON – The Tacoma Defiance begin their 2024 campaign when they visit MLS Next Pro defending champions Austin FC II on Friday. This will be their 10th season since launching as Sounders 2 in what would eventually become the USL Championship and their third season as part of MLS Next Pro.

As is usually the case, the team has undergone a fair amount of change since last season, including hiring a new coach. Hervé Diese – everyone calls him “H” – comes to the Sounders organization with an interesting background that includes some time in the film industry, where he even starred in a movie that appeared at Sundance. More recently, he was an assistant coach at CF Montreal.

Like Wade Webber before him, Diese isn’t shy about using literary references to make his point.

“We need to be able to control our inner strength,” he told reporters following Wednesday’s training session. “That’s not an easy thing to bring out a lot of times, so we use the analogy of Harry Potter and Voldemort and how he can’t be the hero if he doesn’t accept the Voldemort in him. It’s about controlling that ability. That’s what we’ve been doing. We bring it to the training pitch in a controlled matter. Once we bring that on the field, we’re going to be unstoppable.”

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to get ready for the upcoming season:

How did last season go?

The Defiance finished second in the Western Conference with a record of 14-5-9, which included a 6-3 record in penalty shootouts. That translated to 57 points and a +21 goal-difference, both third best in the league. After winning their first-round playoff game, they fell 1-0 at home to eventual champions Austin FC II in the conference semifinals.

What happened to Wade Webber?

After working his way through the organization as an academy coach, then as an assistant with Defiance and finally as the head coach for the past three seasons, Webber took a promotion into the front office where he is now the Director of Development. That means he’s effectively the general manager of the Defiance and Academy, a move he was excited to make.

What about changes to the roster?

The most notable departure was leading scorer Braudilio Rodrigues, who was signed to the first team. Also gone are Juan Alvarez, Eythor Bjørgolfsson, Wallis Lapsley, Adolfo Ovalle, and Hal Uderitz. Antonio Herrera was also sent on loan to Chivas’ U23 team, but could potentially return. Abdoulaye Cissoko (Memphis 901) and Ethan Dobbelaere (D.C. United) were among the players frequently loaned from the first team who left the organization.

What’s the roster look like now?

GOALKEEPER (1): Lars Helleren

DEFENDERS (6): Blake Bowen, Elias Katsaros, Antino Lopez, Owen O’Malley, Pedro Rodrigues, Travian Sousa

MIDFIELDERS (10): Chris Aquino, Faysal Bettache, Snyder Brunell, Frank Daroma, Burke Fahling, Sebastian Gomez, Antonio Herrera*, Kalani Kossa-Rienzi, Gio Miglietti, Georgi Minoungou

Forwards (1): Yu Tsukanome

Is that the final roster?

My understanding is that two more players may soon be added. I’m fairly confident that one of them is Osaze De Rosario, who scored 19 goals across all competitions over the past two seasons with York United of the Canadian Premier League. If that surname seems familiar, it’s because he’s the oldest son of MLS legend Dwayne De Rosario.

Which of these players are the most interesting prospects?

Brunell: Last year, Brunell logged about 1,000 minutes with the Defiance as an amateur. He’s now the youngest player signed to a professional contract in the organization. The midfielder spent most of the preseason with the first team, never looked remotely out of place and is currently with the United States U17 team. Here’s what Diese said about him: “The brilliance of Snyder is he’s so mature at a young age and that’s when he can step onto a first or second team field and nothing changes. It’s an indication of how well he’s been raised.”

Kossa-Rienzi: Like Brunell, Kossa-Rienzi spent most of preseason with the first team and nearly earned a MLS contract after the Sounders picked him in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft. A standout midfielder at UW, he has mostly played right back with the Sounders.

Minoungou: This will be Minoungou’s third season with the organization, but he’s still just 21. Webber has absolutely raved about his athleticism, but he’s never quite put up the stats you’d want to see from a winger. Minoungou lost a chunk of last season to an eye injury but he’s now fully recovered.

Bettache: An offseason signing from St. Louis City 2, Bettache has already earned enough respect from his new teammates that he’s been named the team captain. The 23-year-old central midfielder is one of the most experienced players on the team and has nearly 40 professional appearances in England. If you’re looking for this year’s version of Braudilio, the 23-year-old Bettache is probably the best candidate. Here’s what Diese said about him: “In the video analysis room, on the field, he’s an extension of my voice. It’s really good. The players like him too.”

O’Malley: It was only last year that O’Malley was an intriguing enough prospect that St. Louis City used the No. 9 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft on him. But his season never got untracked, he got suspended twice for team-policy violations and he only ended up making 14 appearances in MLS Next Pro. The Defiance offer him a fresh start. here’s what Diese said about him: “Very talented player, extremely high IQ. he will play multiple roles because he’s so intelligent. he knows how to do his job. He’s very precise with his right and left foot. He gives us room to be more diverse in how we approach the game.”

Any other players likely to feature with the Defiance?

From the first team, I’m expecting centerback Stuart Hawkins, midfielder Sota Kitahara and goalkeeper Jacob Castro to be loaned down frequently. I’m also expecting academy players Kelvin-Luis Brito, Gallatin Sandnes, Mohamed Shour and Etienne Veillard to get frequent call-ups. Brito is an attack-minded midfielder, Sandnes is a centerback, Shour is a goalkeeper and Veillard mostly plays as a winger but projects more as a right back.

How do I watch these games?

Most games will be available through MLS Season Pass – including the season opener – while the remainder will be on