The late season match between the Tacoma Defiance and Colorado Springs Switchbacks — the USL Championship Western Conference’s two lowest scoring teams — looked ready to fulfill its scoreless destiny; through 95 minutes of play it was easily the least entertaining Defiance match of the season. Then in the third minute of second half stoppage-time the match roared as white hot flames from long cooled ash when Josh Atencio turned in a Danny Robles corner to give the Defiance the lead with just their third headed goal of the season.
With the extra stoppage time afforded them by their first goal the Defiance added a second through the first goal’s assister to end the game with a 2-0 win.
Saturday’s win marks the first time this season — actually the first time since Aug. 16, 2017 — that the Defiance (née S2) have won two games in a row. It is also their first clean sheet since July 6 and their third of the season (the other one was on opening night).
While they are long eliminated from the playoffs, the Defiance will have something to play for in their last two matches of 2019. First, they have a chance to ruin both of Austin Bold’s and New Mexico United’s seasons by keeping them out of the playoffs. Second, they have a chance to win 3 (and 4) games in a row for the first time since Aug. 1, 2016 and keep back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since May 16, 2017.
7’- Nick Hinds was fouled in the box. In the medfield it is called 97% of the time, in the box around 80%. The call went the way of the 20%.
16’- Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez turned the corner after he bullied past the bulkier Sebastian Anderson and got off a sumptuous low cross that flashed through the 6-yard-box. Neither Justin Dhillon nor Shandon Hopeau anticipated the beautiful cross. One of them probably should have; they would have been rewarded with an easy tap in.
35’- Jesse Daley out in a floated cross to the back post which Aleks Berkolds needed just a few more inches of elevation to connect with. The ball still fell to Sam Rogers’ feet but the centerback couldn’t sort his feet out quick enough to take advantage of the open net vacated by Abraham Rodriguez when he challenged Berkolds for the ball.
41’- The deteriorating turf caused a back pass to Rodriguez to jump over the keeper’s foot. With the ball headed into the bottom corner Rodriguez made an incredible recovery to clear the ball off the line.
45+2’- Danielle Chesky signaled the end of half, releasing both teams to head to the locker room if they please.
59’- Some shaky defense from Atencio and Antonee Burke-Gilroy in the box led to a shot from Saeed Robinson but he sent it over the bar.
70’- Dhillon looked to be in on goal after a lovely through ball from Ethan Dobbelaere but Kristoffer Reaves did well to get even with the imposing striker and turn him away from goal.
75’- Danny Leyva was dispossessed deep in his own third to give the Switchbacks a three-man mini break; César Romero did the loanee from Seattle Sounders FC a big favor by taking a hopeful early shot from distance.
90+3- A Robles corner found Atencio who headed the ball into the net. 1-0.
90+4- Ocampo-Chavez released Robles down field. The substitute rode an Abdul Rwatubyaye challenge and passed the ball past Rodriguez to double the Defiance lead. 2-0
What should we make of this move to a 4-3-3?
Every so often there is a team whose potential is unlocked by a change in formation. The most prominent example in recent years was Chelsea’s move to the 3-4-3. Antonio Conte’s inspired decision took him from a man not long for his job to a manager with multiple English Premier League trophies on his mantle.
Now, playing in a 4-3-3 isn’t going to win the Defiance any trophies, or even help them make the playoffs, but it does seem to make the team more competitive.
It does so by simplifying, and improving the consistency of, their press and allows the central midfielders to better protect the centerbacks as they switch responsibilities depending on their positions on the field when Tacoma loses possession. It also plays to their attacker’s strengths, most notably Ocampo-Chavez and Hopeau who have thrived a wide forward.
All this seems great, but the most important question is whether or not playing in this formation would improve the development of current and future Sounders players. That is a very complicated question and we will have to wait until next season to see how the Sounders organization answers it.
First Team call-up power rankings
(A quick explainer of my methodology: The rankings don’t take into account the roster situation of the First Team, so the player at #1 is the player not on a First Team contract most ready for MLS, not the player the Sounders need to fill out their roster. However, the player in Bold is the player most likely to be the first player given a contract by the Sounders taking into account their roster needs.)
- Shandon Hopeau (—)
- Denso Ulysse (—)
- Jesse Daley (—)
- Antonee Burke-Gilroy (NEW)
- Danny Robles (—)
Tacoma Defiance I 2-0 I Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium I Tacoma, Washington
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Assistants: Adam Sanchez, Cameron Siler
Fourth Official: Benjamin Oakley
TAC - Josh Atencio (Danny Robles) 90’+3’
TAC - Danny Robles 90’+4’
COS - Saeed Robinson (caution) 10’
COS - Kristoffer Reaves (caution) 26’
TAC - Jesse Daley (caution) 55’
TAC - Antonee Burke-Gilroy (caution) 61’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Trey Muse; Antonee Burke-Gilroy, Sam Rogers, Aleks Berkolds, Nick Hinds; Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva; Shandon Hopeau (Danny Robles 69’), Jesse Daley (Ethan Dobbelaere 61’), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez; Justin Dhillon (Marlon Vargas 81’)
Substitutes not used: Jamie Lowell, Alex Villanueva, Azriel Gonzalez
Total shots: 8
Shots on goal: 2
COS - Abraham Rodriguez; Sebastian Anderson, Kristoffer Reaves, Abdul Rwatubyaye, Ismaila Jome; Tucker Bone, Jordan Schweitzer, Rony Argueta, Matthew Hundley; Saeed Robinson, Jordan Burt (Cesar Romero 21’)
Substitutes not used: Steward Ceus, Jamal Jack, Austin Dewing, Kwasi Donsu
Total shots: 14
Shots on goal: 5