The biggest news from Saturday night’s Tacoma Defiance versus Oklahoma City Energy match was that the Defiance scored a goal. When Azriel Gonzalez put one past Cody Laurendi in the 40th minute, it had been 34 days, four matches, and 412 match minutes since Tacoma last celebrated scoring. Unfortunately the one goal would not be enough; the Defiance eventually lost the match 1-2. Despite the result it was a heartening display from the young Tacoma side that saw them improve over their previous performances.
From the opening whistle is was clear there was something different on about the Defiance. They dominated both possession and chances in the first ten minutes. Josh Atencio had a powerful, technically proficient shot carom off the post and Justin Dhillon pulled an opportunity well wide.
With Tacoma missing their chances, the Energy were able to score first, against the run of play, in the 20th minute. Former Sounder Cordell Cato intercepted an errant square ball deep in the Defiance half and sent in one-time MLSer Deshorn Brown with his first pass. Trey Muse came off his line late and flailing which allowed Brown trickle the ball over the goalline despite mostly flubbing his lines.
The next goal ended the Defiance goal drought. Jonathon Campbell sent a somewhat hopeful ball over the top to Gonzalez. There didn’t seem to be much immediate danger to it until Laurendi came way off his line. Gonzalez beat him to the ball in the corner of the box by a ways and cheekily lifted the ball over the top of a jumping Laurendi on the half volley. With no cover in behind the ball bounced once and into the back of the net.
The Energy would eventually score again to take the three points, but don’t let that dampen what was a good performance from Tacoma that probably deserved a draw.
A lot of players were better for the Defiance, but the overall improved tenor was down to three players: Atencio, Danny Robles, and Samuel Rogers. All three helped Tacoma keep possession, most importantly by defeating the press which had given them so much trouble the previous four matches. After a couple of bad turnovers early, Atencio settled into the match and became the metronome the Defiance have desperately needed while Leyva has been away from the side. He had 84 passes, almost double any other Defiance player, were kept simple, allowing the Defiance to work their way through the midfield. Robles helped by knowing when to drop back and find space near Atencio and Jesse Daley to relieve pressure on those two. Rogers’ long passing ability also helped deal with the press as his smart switches moved the ball away from the focal point of the Energy Press.
Defensively the Defiance improvement was largely down to Atencio and Rogers. Atencio put in four tackles and two interceptions and provided the back line the protection it has needed badly all year. Rogers was just solid at the back, providing stability and aggression — a new and improved feature of Rogers’ defending — that the back line has also desperately needed.
It was just a much better match from the Defiance, and if they can add some directness in the band of three, perhaps through Shandon Hopeau, and a striker who can finish his chances, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, this is a side that could start to string together some results.
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.)
- Sam Rogers
- Denso Ulysse
- Shandon Hopeau
- Josh Atencio
- Danny Robles
Tacoma Defiance I 1-2 I OKC Energy FC
Saturday, May 4, 2019
Venue: Taft Stadium I Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Referee: Matthew Thompson
Assistants: Shane Kennard, Seth Barton
Fourth Official: Joshua Pennington
OKC - Deshorn Brown (Cordell Cato) 13’
TAC - Azriel Gonzalez (Jonathan Campbell) 40’
OKC - Deshorn Brown 70’
TAC - Jesse Daley (caution) 16’
OKC - Mike da Fonte (caution) 42’
TAC - Nick Hinds (caution) 47’
TAC - Joel Rydstrand (caution) 68’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Trey Muse; Henry Wingo, Sam Rogers (Antonee Burke-Gilroy 76’), Jonathan Campbell, Nick Hinds; Jesse Daley (Joel Rydstrand 62’), Josh Atencio; Marlon Vargas, Danny Robles, Azriel Gonzalez; Justin Dhillon (Shandon Hopeau 80’)
Substitutes not used: Jacob Castro, Denso Ulysse
Total shots: 15
Shots on goal: 3
OKC - Laurendi; Alvin Jones, Mekeil Williams, Atiba Harris, Mike da Fonte; Rafael Garcia, Omar Gordon, Callum Ross, Alexy Bosetti (Kyle Hyland 89’), Cordell Cato, Deshorn Brown (Christian Eissele 85’)
Substitutes not used: Bryan Byars, Drew Beckie, Christian Ibeagha, Kalokwera Okot, Marco Bustos
Total shots: 7
Shots on goal: 4