The Tacoma Defiance have officially earned three results in a row for the first time this season with a draw in Carson. In the first half, they picked up where they left off on Sunday in their best offensive performance of the season, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, they could not add to that tally in the second half. The Los Angeles Galaxy II made the Defiance pay for bunkering most of the second half with two goals in the final 10 minutes, turning a potential first road win on the season into a 2-2 draw.
3’- Bryan Meredith attempted to dribble to the edge of the box under pressure and then made a bad pass that was intercepted by Augustine Williams. Meredith was able to stop a poor first effort from LAG II but, with Meredith severely out of position, the rebound fell to Juninho. With the whole net open to him, Juninho sent his shot close enough to Joel Rydstrand that the Defiance midfielder was able to keep it out with a diving header on the line.
4’- Justin Dhillon stole the ball from LAG II’s last man back, Nick Dupay. With just Abraham Romero to beat, Dhillon dribbled around the goalkeeper and finished the ball well into the empty net from a tight angle to give Tacoma a 1-0 lead.
9’- The Defiance again made a mess of things attempting to pass out of the back; they turned the ball over just outside of their own 18. LAG II passed across the box and had what looked to be a free shot on goal, but Denso Ulysse made a fantastic recovery run to steal away the ball just before the Los Dos player was able to line up his shot.
21’- Defiance score again. Azriel Gonzalez made a nice run with the ball into the box. He dribbled past a few LAG II players. When all of his shooting angles were cut off, he made a smart drop-off pass to Jesse Daley at the top of the box. Daley took a touch and then sent a shot to the top left corner with the outside of his foot to stretch the Defiance lead to two.
41-43’- Things got real chippy and a couple of incidents saw LAG II receive 4 yellows and Tacoma receive 2 over a span of two minutes. LA were lucky to escape with no reds as their players put in a solid push on the ref and a full-blown running shove on Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez.
52’- Adrián Vera made a hard, high and late tackle on Daley. He was already on a yellow and should have received a second by any definition of a yellow card offense. And yet, for the third time, LAG II were fortunate to escape without a red card.
69’- Aleks Berkolds made a foolish tackle that got nowhere near the ball on Brian Iloski in the box. The referee pointed to the spot. Long-serving LA Galaxy player Juninho took the kick, but Meredith stopped it with an excellent strong left handed parry.
87’- Meredith came out for a ball that he had no chance of getting. The Defiance defenders had vacated the area when they got the call from Meredith, clearing the way for LAG II’s Frank Lopez, who easily headed the ball over Meredith to cut the Defiance lead to one.
90’- LAG II equalized from outside the box after Frank Lopez laid a ball off to Iloski, who blasted it past Meredith.
Has someone cursed the goalkeepers of the Defiance?
Goalkeeper has probably been the position that has seen the most struggles this year on a Defiance team that has struggled at most positions. That has mostly been down to the form of Trey Muse — which likely cost him his spot at the U20 World Cup being contested in Poland right now — whose struggles have included knowing when to come off his line and what to do when he does, picking up on the power and direction of opposition shots, and most of all, his decision making and execution with the ball at his feet.
Wednesday night, the Crown of Struggle was seamlessly handed over to Meredith, who made poor decisions and had difficulties completing simple passes throughout the match. It would be wild to suggest that Defiance keepers have actually been cursed, but then we must ask what has actually been the cause of Muse’s and Meredith’s dips in form. The only answer that makes any sense is confidence, and with how heady the position is, it seems likely.
Neither player has ever been the best passer, and they are being asked to do it a lot more and make more difficult passes than they have before. It seems likely that their struggles in the passing game have affected their confidence in other areas. Long-term, both players need to become better passers, especially if Muse is to become the First Team’s future starter. Muse’s low confidence is getting to the point where it feels counterproductive to his overall game. Perhaps Tacoma should lessen his passing load until he builds up some confidence that he can succeed at his other goalkeeping responsibilities. Once he is assured of that he will be in a better head space to work on his passing.
What to do with the allotment of right back time?
The Defiance’s lone representative in 2018’s All-USL teams, Denso Ulysse, has not received a lot of starts recently. With Henry Wingo cutting into his time, Ulysse had been relegated to rotational and substitute appearances. Ulysse took advantage of being back in the side by having a massive game. He didn’t have much chance to get involved in the attack, but he finished with 5 tackles, 4 clearances and an interception. He was a large part of why the Defiance kept LAG II scoreless for so long and had a couple of goal-saving tackles.
As a right back, Wingo has had occasional flashes in attack, but he has been inconsistent while struggling mightily in attack. It’s understandable what the organization is trying to do with Wingo, but it has to be asked whether hoping Wingo makes a big jump in his quality as a fullback is really a better use of the Defiance’s right back spot than giving time to a very promising 20-year-old who already looks ready for a backup role on the first team and could easily become much more.
Has Azriel finally figured out how to play at the professional level?
When Gonzalez was signed to S2 he was given a difficult task: Adjust to playing as a pro while learning a new position. He has struggled with that task and it was starting to look like he may never figure it out. However, over the last two matches he has shown signs that he has figured out how to play as a wide attacking midfielder. He has been both beating his opponents to the end line and making good decisions and succeeding while dribbling at people when he cuts inside.
His assist in this match was a perfect example of his improvement. He cut inside and beat a couple of players, but eventually had all his shooting options cut off. Up until recently he would have shot anyway and had such efforts routinely blocked. In this game, he picked up his head and found Daley with a nice lay-off pass. While it remains too early to determine whether Gonzalez has turned a corner, it looks like he could finally be on his way.
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
- Sam Rogers
- Shandon Hopeau
- Danny Robles
- Josh Atencio
Tacoma Defiance I 2-2 I LA Galaxy II
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park Track and Field Stadium I Carson, California
Referee: Malik Badawi
Assistants: Diego Blas, Christian Lara
Fourth Official: Brandon Stevis
Weather: 63 degrees and clear
TAC - Justin Dhillon 4’
TAC - Jesse Daley (Azriel Gonzalez) 21’
LA - Frank Lopez (Jose Hernandez) 87’
LA - Brian Iloski (Frank Lopez) 90’
TAC - Denso Ulysse (caution) 23’
LA - Adrian Vera (caution) 40’
LA - Nicholas DePuy (caution) 41’
LA - Justin Fiddes (caution) 42’
LA - Abraham Romero (caution) 42’
TAC - Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (caution) 42’
TAC - Azriel Gonzalez (caution) 43’
TAC - Justin Dhillon (caution) 75’
LA - Kai Koreniuk (caution) 82’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Bryan Meredith; Denso Ulysse, Aleks Berkolds, Josh Atencio, Matt Nance; Jesse Daley, Joel Rydstrand; Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Danny Robles 69’), Antonee Burke-Gilroy (Gabe Threadgold 90’+3’), Azriel Gonzalez; Justin Dhillon (Nick Hinds 80’)
Substitutes not used: Jacob Castro, Modou Ndow
Total shots: 12
Shots on goal: 6
LA - Abraham Romero; Mauricio Cuevas (Armel-Don Tchilao 75’), Michael Gallagher, Nicholas DePuy, Justin Fiddes; Brian Iloski, Juninho Pereira, Adrian Vera (Jose Hernandez 81’), Kai Koreniuk; Ethan Zubak, Augustine Williams (Frank Lopez 60’)
Substitutes not used: Eric Lopez, Nate Shultz, Jorge Hernandez, Omar Ontiveros
Total shots: 26
Shots on goal: 8