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Key takeaways from Defiance’s season-opening win over Austin

Defiance dominate defending MLS Next Pro champs.

Last Updated
3 min read
Photo courtesy of Sounders FC Communications

The Tacoma Defiance had quite a test in their 2024 MLS Next Pro season opener, facing defending-champions Austin FC II on Friday. To say they passed with flying colors is probably an understatement.

Facing an opponent who allowed a league-low 23 goals overall and just seven goals at home last season, Defiance were clearly the better team throughout and ultimately won 3-1 behind goals from Stuart Hawkins, Faysal Bettache and Gio Miglietti. While it should be noted that all three of the Defiance’s goals came after Austin II were reduced to 10 men, Defiance had the possession advantage in the first half and had by far the best chances up until that point.

The Defiance will next play Colorado Rapids 2 at home on March 24.


Standout performers

Hawkins: The 17-year-old centerback scored his second career goal on a nice header off a rebound from Burke Fahling’s shot off the crossbar. While showing good reflexes and positioning, the goal wasn’t the real highlight of his performance. Playing in one of the toughest environments in MLS Next Pro – the Defiance struggled mightily there last year – Hawkins never looked remotely rattled. He completed 82 of 84 passes, including 6 of 7 long balls and did everything asked of him defensively.

Betache: The midfielder’s goal was probably the highlight of the night – Georgi Minoungou made a wonderful run to set up the sweet left-footed strike from the top of the box – he was bossing the midfield throughout. The 23-year-old was constantly putting the Austin defenders on their heels, registering a game-high seven dribbles and created all sorts of havoc on the press with 15 duels. He was a constant danger all over the pitch.

Kalani Kosa-Rienzi: After spending all preseason with the first team, it would possibly be understandable if he hung his head a bit after opening the season with a MLS Next Pro contract. Instead, he picked up right where he left off. He assisted on the final goal and was a constant presence on both sides of the ball. He was 43 of 46 passing, won 7 of 8 duels, had seven recoveries and was 2 of 3 on tackles. Exactly the kind of play the first team wants to see.

Match Summary

Tacoma Defiance 3 – Austin FC II 1

Friday, March 15, 2024 

Venue: Parmer Field

Referee: Melvin Rivas

Assistants: Bill Bolsen, Jason Guillen

Fourth official: Sean Caouette

Weather: 65 degrees and mostly cloudy


TAC – Stuart Hawkins 67’

TAC – Faysal Bettache (Georgi Minoungou) 75’

ATX – Bryan Arellano 83’

TAC – Gio Miglietti (Kalani Kossa-Rienzi) 90+4’ 


ATX – Alonso Ramírez (caution) 32’

ATX – Sebastien Pineau (caution) 48’

TAC – Stuart Hawkins (caution) 49’

ATX – Sebastien Pineau (ejection) 52’

ATX – Micah Burton (caution) 70’

TAC – Owen O’Malley (caution) 77’

ATX – Steeve Louis Jean (caution) 90+7’ 


Tacoma Defiance – Lars Helleren; Kalani Kossa-Rienzi, Antino Lopez, Stuart Hawkins, Travian Sousa; Frank Daroma, Sota Kitahara (Owen O’Malley 64’); Burke Fahling, Faysal Bettache – captain, Georgi Minoungou (Gio Miglietti 77’); Yu Tsukanome (Elias Katsaros 85’)

Substitutes not used: Trevor Wilson, Pedro, Chris Aquino, Sebastian Gomez

Total shots: 13; Shots on goal: 7; Fouls: 16; Offside: 3; Corner-kicks: 6; Saves: 3 

Austin FC II – Marcus Alstrup; Steeve Louis Jean, Antonio Gomez, Salvatore Mazzaferro, Anthony De Anda; Alonso Ramírez, Micah Burton, Bryan Arellano (Christopher Garcia 84’); Anthony Garcia (Jonathan Santillian 64’), Sébastien Pineau, CJ Fodrey

Substitutes not used: Aaron Cervantes, Joah Reyna, Luke Spadafora, Mason Miller, Drake Fournier, Gavin Wolff

Total shots: 8; Shots on goal: 5; Fouls: 20; Offside: 1; Corner-kicks: 4; Saves: 4