The roster for Tacoma Defiance is taking shape as the team announced a handful of roster moves heading into the off-season. Four players have signed new contracts, two players had their options picked up, and seven players have been released, leaving the roster for 2020 at a total of 12 signed players.
The Australians — Jesse Daley and Antonee Burke-Gilroy — have been signed to new deals, as have former Sounders Academy players Shandon Hopeau and Nick Hinds, meaning that the team’s first choice fullbacks will be staying in Tacoma next season. Daley and Hopeau were constants in the midfield, with Daley acting as a key figure in Chris Little’s double-pivot while Hopeau’s development as a threat from the wing was one of the major narratives of 2019. Azriel Gonzalez and Sam Rogers both had contract options picked up by the team, as well, making that six of the team’s preferred starting XI signed on for next season.
Those six players are joined for 2020 by six more players already under contract for next season. Of the six already signed, only defender Abdoulaye Cissoko — a 19-year-old French centerback who had been on loan to San Diego 1904 FC in the National Independent Soccer Association since being acquired in September from San Diego Zest FC of USL League 2 — is not a Sounders FC Academy product. In addition to Cissoko, midfielders Josh Atencio and Danny Robles, and attacking midfielders/forwards Alec Diaz, Ray Serrano, and Marlon Vargas were also already signed for 2020.
Tacoma Defiance declined the contract options for four players: Aleks Berkolds, Matt Nance, Ever Rubio, and Herbert Robinson. Of note, Matt Nance had announced during the season that he would be retiring from professional soccer after 2019. Berkolds spent much of 2019 as one of the first-choice centerbacks, making 23 appearances. The team also released defenders Modou Ndow and Denso Ulysse, as well as midfielder Ben Numbi. Ulysse had been with the team since 2017, earning All-League Second Team honors as well as coming in at No. 7 on the 20-Under-20 list in 2018. In 2019, Ulysse played only 15 games through a combination of injury, national team duty with several age groups of the Haitian National Team, and the emergence of Burke-Gilroy as an option at right back.
The team’s roster consists of 12 players ahead of the 2020 season, with nine of those being products of the Sounders academy system. In addition to those 12 rostered players, first team players Trey Muse, Danny Leyva, Justin Dhillon, and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez will likely see significant minutes with Tacoma. There will certainly be more signings in the coming months, and current academy players will continue to have opportunities to play with the USL Championship side.