TACOMA, Wash. — After the first 10 minutes of Friday night’s meeting between the Tacoma Defiance and New Mexico United it looked like we were in for a wide open barn burner. Tacoma scored in the 2’ when Shandon Hopeau made a marauding run down the right side deep into the New Mexico box and found Azriel Gonzalez on the back post with a low cross. Just moments later New Mexico got to men in behind the Defiance backline. They looked to have scored the equalizer but Moduo NDow cleared it spectacularly off the line.
After the opening flurry the game slowed down considerably and New Mexico were able to claw their way to a 2-1 victory.
New Mexico dictated most of the game with a high press that the Defiance struggled to break. This left them pinned in their defensive end for large stretches of the game. They really missed Danny Leyva’s passing and vision in the middle of the pitch. Tacoma attempted nearly 200 passes less than their average and their accuracy was 5% short of their usual.
Typically their problem is completing the final pass and finishing, but tonight they struggled to complete passes at all. They need to work on finding pockets of space and giving each other easier passes when they first possess the ball so they can find the two or three passes needed to break a press. If they can take a step and figure out how to do this consistently they should have a lot of success because they look very dangerous on the break, especially when Shandon Hopeau, who has made a jump in directness and decision making this season, is leading it.
Tacoma did eventually have a decent attacking spell from 65’-77’ but it eventually lead to New Mexico exposing their other big weakness and score the winning goal. When Tacoma has prolonged possession in their own half they leave themselves wide open to counters. That’s how Los Dos and Tulsa were able to hang three and four goals on them.
There are criticisms that Tacoma are putting too many young kids in positions where they can’t succeed, I mostly disagree except at one position, the deeper central midfielder (essentially the position Gustav Svensson plays for the First Team). There just isn’t a player in the pool who has the instincts and/or physical ability to effectively play as the more defensive central midfielder. This puts both the individual player and the team in a position where they cannot be expected to succeed. It’s no coincidence that the game the Defiance won was with Alex Roldan playing that role. So while I think the strategy of playing young kids up with Tacoma has largely worked, the organization needs to bring in a more experienced player to protect the Defiance backline or commit to have one of Alex Roldan or Jordy Delem play with Tacoma more games than not. If they don’t the negatives of the Sounders Developmental strategy could overwhelm the positive.
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.)
- Denso Ulysse (-)
- Shandon Hopeau (↑2)
- Danny Leyva (-)
- Sam Rogers (↓2)
- Alec Diaz (-)
Tacoma Defiance I 1-2 I New Mexico United
Friday, March 29, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium I Tacoma, Washington
Referee: Dejan Susak
Assistants: Christian Clerc, Ryan Jung
Fourth Official: Taylor Vance
Weather: 55 degrees and partly cloudy
TAC - Azriel Gonzalez (Shandon Hopeau) 2’
NMU - Ryan Williams 37’
NMU - Kevaughn Frater (Santi Moar) 77’
NMU - Kevaughn Frater (caution) 17’
NMU - Santi Moar (caution) 23’
TAC - Modou Ndow (caution) 27’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Trey Muse; Denso Ulysse, Aleks Berkolds, Modou Ndow, Nick Hinds; Josh Atencio, Joel Rydstrand; Shandon Hopeau (Alec Diaz 74’), Antonee Burke-Gilroy (Danny Leyva 83’), Azriel Gonzalez (Marlon Vargas 80’); Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez
Substitutes not used: Jacob Castro, Matt Nance, Justin Dhillon, Jesse Daley
Total shots: 8
Shots on goal: 3
NMU - Cody Mizell; Manny Padilla, Rashid Teeteh, Josh Suggs, Justin Schmidt; Saalih Muhammad, (Tommy Madden 86’), Juan Guzman (Toni Soler 70’); Santi Moar, David Estrada, Ryan Williams (Chris Wehan 63’); Kevaughn Frater
Substitutes not used: Ben Beaury, Josh Goss
Total shots: 22
Shots on goal: 5
DEFIANCE HEAD COACH CHRIS LITTLE
On the result:
“Ultimately, we’re disappointed because we lost the game. We’re trying to create a culture where winning is important, being able to be competitive is important. I thought in key moments in the game, we didn’t do well enough and we got punished. It’s a quick learning curve and we have to do a lot better.”
On New Mexico’s pressing:
“It’s reading the pressure. The game is all about space. If the other team plays higher, there’s space in behind. It’s about awareness of where that is. We had planned for that. I thought they played higher and they left themselves exposed at times. I thought in key moments, where we’re matched up 1-v-1 in good positions and situations, we’d like to make better decisions in the next game.”
On sustaining energy throughout the match:
“You get an early goal and you hope you get a lift. But we’re playing a good team, an experienced team, and they responded to that. I thought the first 15-20 minutes we were good. We were on top of them and causing a lot of problems. I haven’t seen it, but I was told the goal was maybe offside. Goals change games.”
DEFIANCE MIDFIELDER AZRIEL GONZALEZ
On the result:
“It’s really disappointing. That’s a game that we definitely should have won. Yes, I got a goal, but the results are the things that matter. So, that was a game we definitely should have won. It’s disappointing. We’ve just got to move on from it. We have a game on Monday, we need to focus on that.”
On how he feels:
“A little disappointed. It wasn’t really an injury, I was just cramping up. I wanted to give my team everything. I just feel disappointed.”
On playing with Nick Hinds:
“I’ve been having a good relationship with Nick since last year. He’s got a lot of speed and we’re close outside of soccer, not just on the field. Our chemistry is good. He’s someone I can always rely on to make those runs outside. If I get the ball inside, he’s making that run.”