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The stewards of Defiance

As a key part of the Sounders development system, Tacoma Defiance are poised to reach new heights but can grow to be something even greater.

Last Updated
12 min read
Sandra Agbotse / Sounders FC Communications

Tacoma Defiance, like any second team, stands at an interesting position in the Seattle Sounders organization and the soccer landscape more broadly. As both a competitive professional team and the final step before the First Team in Seattle’s development system, the team and those in charge have to balance getting results – and maybe even lifting a trophy at some point – with creating and nurturing an environment focused on development.

Even if the team achieves new head coach Hervé Diese’s stated goal of becoming MLS NEXT Pro Champions, the ultimate fruit of the team’s labors will be enjoyed by other coaches and other teams. Ideally the players learn and grow with Defiance and then move on to the Sounders first team, where they continue to grow into the stars of the club’s future, still in the same organization but under the guiding hands of a different staff. It requires a kind of long-term vision from the coach as well as those guiding the team from a greater remove like Technical Director Henry Brauner and Director of Development Wade Webber. They all tend to a grove of trees whose shade they may never get to enjoy.

Playing in their 10th season, the team has certainly matured in a number of ways. They’re off to a strong start, with a 4-2-1 record and a shootout win in their lone draw. They’ve bolstered the usual array of youth players from within the organization along with a mix of exciting prospects like Osaze De Rosario and Lanus loanee Brian Aguilar and experienced hands such as Faysal Bettache and Burke Fahling. You could understandably look at the signings from the offseason, the results so far, and a new coach brought in from outside the organization and assume that there’s a new approach underway at Tacoma Defiance, but that’s not the way Wade Webber sees it.

“The purpose of Defiance – I don’t know how to say it in French, the reason for existence, the raison d’être – it hasn’t changed,” explained Webber. “If we’re not getting players in to the first team who are able to help the first team be successful, whatever else we do is not worth it. So that’s not changed.”

By that metric, the team is clearly succeeding. The Sounders roster currently features 13 players who made their way through the second team before joining the MLS squad, with three or four regular starters among them. When Seattle faced Louisville City FC in the U.S. Open Cup amidst a busy schedule, they relied even more upon that wealth of talent through a number of short-term loans to fill out the game day roster, as the Starting XI included eight current or former Defiance players, with another five entering the game as subs.

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