The Tacoma Defiance looked a lot different in their 2-1 win over Sacramento Republic FC than they did in the first three matches of the USL Championship season. They lined up with 10 First Team players (Danny Leyva was the only TAC player who started) though only two of them, Will Bruin and Román Torres, had never featured for the Sounders USL affiliate.
Despite the superior talent on the field, the Defiance got off to a disjointed start. They had trouble finding each other, especially in the final third and Republic FC had by far the better chances. The lone bright spots where Danny Leyva, who controlled the middle well and had some impressive long passes, and the direct, aggressive play of Henry Wingo. Here were my only notes from the first half (probably should have had a little more but I was pretty bored):
The Sounders, uh, I mean Defiance, came out of the second half looking much better. It seems Defiance Coach Chris Little and Sounders Assistant Coach Preki encouraged them to play a better second half.
Handwalla Bwana was moved outside where he is comfortable and not gumming up the middle and the attacking movement from the front four was immediately improved. They were rewarded with a goal at 50’. The move started with a great pass from Leyva, who found Wingo on the run near his own box. Wingo moved up the middle of the field and Will Bruin moved smartly outside. Wingo passed to Bruin and continued his run. Bruin found him in the middle of the box and Wingo stroked it past Josh Cohen with his first touch.
It was a great, classic counter-attack goal and it was an excellent example of the strengths of 2 of the 3 best players for Tacoma on the night. Leyva, who is 15 years old remember, showed off his excellent vision and touch with the outlet pass. Overall Leyva had an excellent game and was one of the few who looked comfortable in the first half. He led the team in both passes (50) and pass accuracy (83.6%) and added four recoveries in the first half.
It also showed Wingo’s dominant and powerful ability to run with the ball. He pushed the ball up the field quickly and bypassed a couple Sacramento defenders with ease. His ability to beat defenders on the dribble continues to improve. He then showed his refined decision-making when he played an early, accurate ball wide to Bruin. Last year he probably holds onto the ball too long and gives Sacramento time to recover. Wingo finished with five successful dribbles and led the team in shots (4) and shots-on-target (3).
The other player in the top three, Jordy Delem, quietly had a great game. He had a whopping 17 defensive actions and was behind only Leyva in passing accuracy (82.7%). His ability to pass the ball forward through the midfield to connect the backline and attack looked improved over last year. This is heartening to see because, with Osvaldo Alonso gone to the midwest, he is likely Gustav Svensson’s backup. He has always been able to do the defensive job, but if Svensson goes down — or when Cristian Roldan is likely to miss time during the summer — it will be important for Delem get the ball forward as the Swede does so well.
When the Defiance brought on their three subs they started to look disjointed again and didn’t finish too well. Luckily Cohen allowed a soft goal on a Bruin shot from a tight angle before a questionable penalty call on a Nick Hinds handball gave Sacramento their first and only goal.
The win sees the Defiance improve to six points and jump up the table to eighth (which is two clear of the last playoff spot which is now 10th) in the USL Championship Western Conference.
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 2-1 I Sacramento Republic FC
Monday, April 1, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium I Tacoma, Washington
Referee: Alejandro Aguilera Jr.
Assistants: Joshua Haimes, Cameron Siler
Fourth Official: Hanif Zarrabi-Kashani
Weather: 60 degrees and partly cloudy
TAC - Henry Wingo (Will Bruin) 50’
TAC - Will Bruin (Saad Abdul-Salaam) 78’
SAC - Cameron Iwasa (penalty) 88’
TAC - Danny Leyva (caution) 22’
SAC - Dekel Keinan (caution) 55’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Trey Muse; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Roman Torres, Jonathan Campbell, Nouhou (Marlon Vargas 72’); Jordy Delem, Danny Leyva; Henry Wingo (Shandon Hopeau 64’), Handwalla Bwana (Nick Hinds 72’), Alex Roldan; Will Bruin
Substitutes not used: Jacob Castro, Denso Ulysse, Josh Atencio, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez
Total shots: 18
Shots on goal: 6
SAC - Josh Cohen; Shannon Gomez, Charalampos Chantzopoulos, Dekel Keinan, Mitchell Taintor; Elliot Hord (Villyan Bijev 54’), Ray Saari (Drew Skundrich 51’), Jaime Villarreal, Keven Aleman (Tyler Blackwood 71’), Stefano Bonomo; Cameron Iwasa
Substitutes not used: Rafael Diaz, Matt Mahoney, Hayden Partain, Sam Werner
Total shots: 15
Shots on goal: 3
DEFIANCE HEAD COACH CHRIS LITTLE
On the match:
“It was a tough, hard-fought game. It ebbed and flowed. I thought the first 30 minutes of the second half, we were really good. I was really pleased with some of the play and the effort. And then the last 15 minutes, there was some defending to be done. We were really pleased with the effort of the guys. There were a lot of big First Team guys that played, and I thought they showed fantastic effort and commitment. I thought they showed a good example for our younger players.”
On coaching Román Torres:
“It was fantastic. What a privilege. He’s a captain and wanted to play. I thought he led by example and defended well. It was great opportunity, and it showed why he’s had the career that he’s had. Hopefully, a lot of our young guys can learn from it.”
On the club’s player profiles across all levels:
“It was a Seattle Sounders team. What we’re trying hard to do is to get this integration through our club. We have an identity and style with Brian Schmetzer and the First Team. We try to transplant that into the Second Team, and then into the academy. So, when players are coming through [the youth system], there’s an understanding of our style of play, the priorities, the principles and how we want to approach the game. That’s a methodology within the club, and that comes from the top down. Hopefully when our players get a chance, whether it’s in training or a game with the First Team, it’s not foreign to them. They know the roles, the positions, the expectations and the demands. We’re hoping to make that transition as smooth as possible.”
DEFIANCE FORWARD WILL BRUIN
On scoring his first USL Championship goal:
“I’m going to get the jersey and frame it. It felt good to get a goal. No matter where you’re playing, scoring and getting that confidence is good, and getting 90 minutes because minutes have been hard to come by. It just felt good to get out there and score.”
On scoring despite not getting a lot of touches:
“I don’t really need that many touches. Coaches always tell me to go high and occupy the center backs. I think in the first half we were trying to figure it out, not many touches there. Second half I got on the ball a lot more when the game started to open up a little bit and we played better through the midfield. And when I get in the box, I’m going to shoot.”
On the level of play:
“It was good. You can tell they were well coached and like to press high and try to get turnovers. You can see maybe the quality of finishing is a little less. They had some chances to put in that they didn’t, we had some chances that we missed. At the end of the day, it’s 11-v-11 and we were just happy we got the win.”