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Kalani Kossa-Rienzi appears ready to take flight

Defiance midfielder making a strong pitch for a first-team contract after starring in Open Cup win.

Last Updated
4 min read
Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

RENTON — Kalani Kossa-Rienzi certainly knows how to make an impression. After being picked in the first round of the 2024 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Washington, he was among the standouts in preseason training camp and was one of the last players cut from the first team.

Understandably disappointed, Kossa-Rienzi accepted a contract to play with Tacoma Defiance and has continued that form. Despite playing a relatively new position — right back — he has picked up two assists, logged a team-high 682 minutes and ranks 21st in American Soccer Analysis’ G+ stat, which is designed to illustrate everything a player does to help his team score and prevent goals.

But Kossa-Rienzi may have saved his best for his first start with the Sounders. After 87 minutes of solid two-way play against Phoenix Rising with Seattle looking for a late game-winner, Kossa-Rienzi stationed himself at the edge of the penalty area on a deep throw-in. As the ball ricocheted around, he floated toward goal and was ready when Danny Musovski flicked a header.

Kossa-Rienzi took the ball off his chest, took a couple more touches to create some space and then slammed his shot just under the crossbar. He punctuated his first professional goal with a backflip that Obafemi Martins would have envied, effortlessly flying through the air and landing it with a smooth hop.

“Danny is so good at getting those flicks, so I was just trying to stay around him,” Kossa-Rienzi told reporters after the game, noting he was a semi-competitive gymnast during his early teen years. “I just made sure to shuffle around and get on his backside. Nobody really focuses on the little guy in the back so I was just waiting for it to come.”

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