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Darwin Jones and Orange County best the Tacoma Defiance

Tacoma fall apart at the end of the match and the puzzle that the Defiance must solve comes into focus.

Tacoma Defiance fell to Orange County Soccer Club on the road last evening in a match that was closer than the 4-0 scoreline suggests, at least for the first 70 minutes. Former Sounder Darwin Jones scored Orange County’s first goal of the game and was a menace for much of the night.

Darwin awakens

Orange County Soccer Club’s 27-year-old forward, and former Seattle Sounders Homegrown signing, looked to be on a mission Wednesday night against the Defiance; a team he scored a hat trick for in his first-ever professional start back when they were known as Sounders 2. We don’t know if he had revenge on his mind, wanted to show the Sounders what they are missing, or if he is just energized by his recent hot streak. Whatever the reason, he was up for this match. Until this past Saturday Jones had only scored two professional goals since leaving the Sounders in 2016. He equaled that total with 2 goals in Orange County’s last match and looked determined from the opening whistle to surpass it against Tacoma.

Set up on the right wing, Jones went at Defiance left back Nick Hinds over and over. Hinds was equal to the task in the opening 10 minutes but eventually Jones’ speed and quickness started to give him trouble. The Defiance midfield failed to adjust to Jones’ dominance, which left Hinds stranded on an island with a task he could not complete. Jones made the Defiance pay in the 28th minute when he got the ball near the top of the box and drove directly at Hinds. The Tacoma left back is not a good enough defender at this point in his career to handle someone like Jones without help, so Hinds soon found himself pushed into the six-yard-box. Jones then made a quick move to his right to take Hinds out of the picture and sent a rocket over the top of Defiance goalkeeper Jacob Castro from close range. Jones got his goal, perhaps his revenge, and his side their victory.

Jones’ success against the team that moved on from him is a good, fun story for the neutral observer, and maybe even for some Sounders fans. It is certainly not one the Defiance were keen to participate in, but at the moment they have a bigger problem to worry about.

A midfield without an anchor

In the Defiance’s six matches this season they have allowed at least three goals in half of them. In all three of these matches the biggest point of weakness, though not Tacoma’s only one, has been at the #6 position (where Gustav Svensson plays with the first team). With their style of play it is arguably Tacoma’s most important defensive position. The #6 is responsible for covering up all the holes left by the aggressive press and attack that the Sounders organization instills at every level of play. The player in that spot must be willing and able to cover a lot of ground and, most relevant to this discussion, have an excellent understanding of space and instincts about the impetus of danger on a soccer field. This requires, among other things, experience.

The two players who were best in this role last year, Francisco Narbón and Ray Saari, are both gone. Saari was cut from the team and Narbón suffered fractures to his tibia and fibula; he is currently rehabbing with the team, but it is unknown when he will be healthy and if he will be offered a new contract. The solution to this problem would be simple if Tacoma were only interested in winning — they would just sign an experienced defensive midfielder — but the team’s developmental nature makes this a more complicated problem to resolve.

In the short-term the Defiance will likely continue to struggle with these challenges against more experienced sides, but the young players who are earning minutes in central midfield will continue to gain invaluable experience that should have long-term benefits for the entire Sounders organization.

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. Shandon Hopeau (-)
  3. Sam Rogers (↑1)
  4. Alec Diaz (↑1)
  5. Nick Hinds (NEW)

Highlights

Match stats

MATCH SUMMARY

Tacoma Defiance I 0-4 I Orange County SC

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Venue: Championship Soccer Stadium I Irvine, CA

Referee: Fotis Bazakos

Assistants: Salma Perez, Eduardo Jeff

Fourth Official: Daniel Radford

SCORING SUMMARY

OC - Darwin Jones (Aodhan Quinn) 28’

OC - Leonardo (Walker Hume) 71’

OC - Michael Seaton (Vinicius) 85’

OC - Vinicius (Jerry van Ewijk) 89’

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

OC - Harry Forrester (caution) 50’

LINEUPS & STATS

TAC - Jacob Castro; Denso Ulysse, Aleks Berkolds, Modou Ndow, Nick Hinds; Joel Rydstrand, Jesse Daley; Shandon Hopeau (Azriel Gonzalez 69’), Antonee Burke-Gilroy (Ben Numbi 79’), Marlon Vargas; Justin Dhillon (Alec Diaz 65’)

Substitutes not used: Sam Fowler, Matt Nance, Blake Malone

Total shots: 4

Shots on goal: 2

Fouls: 12

Offside: 5

Corner-kicks: 1

Saves: 3

OCSC - Patrick McLain; Kevin Alston, Owusu Kontor, Leonardo, Walker Hume; Liam Trotter (Daniel Crisostomo 60’), Darwin Jones (Vinicius 77’), Aodhan Quinn (Charlie Adams 72’), Harry Forrester, Jerry van Ewijk, Michael Seaton

Substitutes not used: Aaron Cervantes, Hugo Arellano, Koji Hashimoto, Ramos Godoy

Total shots: 13

Shots on goal: 7

Fouls: 18

Offside: 4

Corner-kicks: 4

Saves: 0