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Defiance unmoored by Tulsa

Three set-piece goals and three keeper mistakes doomed Tacoma.

It was going to be tough for the Tacoma Defiance to get a result in Tulsa under the best of circumstances, but three mistakes from Sam Fowler and complete set-piece domination by the Tulsa Roughnecks led to a 4-0 loss for the Defiance.

It was a bit of a strange one from the Defiance as they broke from the style of play that has defined their early season. The team let up on consistently playing out of the back, especially early, relying instead on clearances and long balls in the air from the centerbacks. The more persistent and possibly costly change was a complete drop off in the high press. It is hard to tell if this was an intentional change for road games or not, but either way it didn’t really work.

The problem came from how Tacoma were attacking which was almost exclusively by overloading the right side with one of the central midfielders, usually Danny Leyva, Denso Ulysse and Shandon Hopeau (and then Marlon Vargas when Hopeau went out with a knock). This was a very effective attacking strategy, especially when Tulsa dropped back after their two early goals, but left them wide open when they turned the ball over.

In order to counter this vulnerability the Defiance needed to either press very aggressively or drop back hard and fast. Instead they sort of split the difference, with Leyva pressing alone which left a huge hole in the middle of the field and Tulsa only one simple pass away from exploiting it. This combined with Joel Rydstrand not covering for Ulysse, who was often furthest up the field at the end of the attack, meant Tacoma had to either foul in dangerous places or leave Tulsa with a man advantage on the break. They mostly chose to foul.

This let Tulsa exploit what might be Tacoma’s biggest weakness, their set-piece defense. With Tacoma’s shaky keeper and undersized squad Tulsa were able to easily score three goals off set pieces.

That sounds like a lot of negatives but it is actually very promising. The right sided attack looks close to unstoppable, and if they can occasionally switch the field and/or get runs into the box by the far winger they should create a lot of chances. They can also mitigate the defensive vulnerability by getting on the same page with the press, which should give the defense time to get back.

This was a frustrating match for sure, especially for the back four, but we also saw the skeleton of what could be a successful, exciting modus operandi start to emerge.

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.)

  1. Denso Ulysse
  2. Sam Rogers
  3. Danny Leyva
  4. Shandon Hopeau
  5. Alec Diaz


Match Stats


Tacoma Defiance I 0-4 I Tulsa Roughnecks FC

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Venue: ONEOK Field I Tulsa, Oklahoma

Referee: Thomas Snyder

Assistants: Jennifer Garner, Kevin Lock

Fourth Official: Matthew Corrigan

Attendance: 2,489


TUL - Cyprian Hedrick (Rodrigo da Costa) 8’

TUL - Cristhian Altamirano (Luca Lobo) 20’

TUL - Luca Lobo (Rodrigo da Costa) 44’

TUL - Luca Lobo 57’


TAC - Joel Rydstrand (caution) 23’


TAC - Sam Fowler; Denso Ulysse, Aleks Berkolds, Modou Ndow, Matt Nance; Danny Leyva (Danny Robles 77’), Joel Rydstrand; Shandon Hopeau (Marlon Vargas HT), Antonee Burke-Gilroy, Azriel Gonzalez (Justin Dhillon 66’); Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez

Substitutes not used: Jacob Castro, Jesse Daley

Total shots: 9

Shots on goal: 2

Fouls: 14

Offside: 3

Corner-kicks: 8

Saves: 5

TUL - Sean Lewis (Andrew MacRae 62’); Luca Lobo, Mallan Roberts, Cyprian Hedrick, Anthony Legendre; Jeff Addai; Akeil Barrett, Rodrigo da Costa, Fabian Bastidas (Brayan Reyes 57’), Cristhian Altamirano; Janu Silva (Tobenna Uzo 71’)

Substitutes not used: Renan Ferreira, Manny Gonzalez, AJ Ajeakwa, D.J. Dean

Total shots: 17

Shots on goal: 9

Fouls: 20

Offside: 1

Corner-kicks: 5

Saves: 2

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