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Tacoma Defiance at El Paso Locomotive recap: Still winless on the road

Tacoma find no joy in El Paso; only heat and clumps of loose turf.

The Tacoma Defiance arrived in far west Texas to play El Paso Locomotive FC in their best form of the season. The first away win of the season seemed eminently possible. Unfortunately that eminence faded as soon as they stepped on Locomotive’s decaying — and dangerous — playing surface. They struggled for possession in the first half but debutant goalie Jamie Lowell kept them in the match — letting in only one — despite his goal being bombarded.

The Defiance played better in the beginning of the second half. They had much more of the ball but still struggled to get it into the box. Shandon Hopeau was able to dribble into the box several times but found his only option to be shots from tight angles. The hope of a win reappeared when Chiro N’Toko was sent off in the 62’. It soon became clear that the red card has awoken Locomotive. They took control of the match and never gave it back to the Defiance.

Lowell made a couple more saves but Locomotive eventually got their second and coasted their way to the final whistle for a 2-0 win.

Key Moments

9’- Aleks Berkolds dribbled into trouble and turned the ball over as the Defiance’s last defender. Andrew Fox looked to be in on goal but Berkolds got just enough of his jersey to pull him down. Berkolds was fairly lucky to get away with a yellow card.

10’- From the free kick earned from Berkolds yellow card challenge Fox put in a good direct effort on goal. Lowell got down to his left well and was able to push the shot aside despite it taking a difficult bounce right in front of him.

18’- Edson Partida got the ball in tons of space on the left. Burke-Gilroy closed him down way to slowly which allowed Partida an open cross which he put on the top of the six. None of Tacoma’s Defenders went with Fox’s run to the top of the six where he met the ball perfectly with no one around. He put his volleyed attempt well over.

25’- Antonee Burke-Gilroy got beat badly by a run into the box by Partida. The Tacoma right back made a wild tackle from behind, bringing Partida down while getting nowhere near the ball. Burke-Gilroy looked headed for a penalty conceded and a red card but the Assistant Referee put up the offside flag to negate it all.

32’- Partida again beat Burke-Gilroy with a back post run. The cross targeting his run was looped in but Burke-Gilroy couldn’t catch up. Partida got to it first and with a overhead kick with his left boot sent the ball past his own head and into the goal. 0-1

46’- Tacoma got their first shot on target when Hopeau cut in from the right and worked himself some space for a shot. Hopeau caught it well but the angle was tight and he couldn’t quite squeeze it by Logan Ketterer.

50’- Nick Hinds sent in a great cross to Hopeau on the back post. Hopeau had space and an open goal in front of him but couldn’t get enough contact on a waist high volley.

53’- Marlon Vargas turned El Paso over in their own box and got to the end line with some fancy footwork. He then sent a great cutback pass to a wide open Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez who’s low shot was cleared off the line by a defender.

57’- Justin Dhillon was raked down the calf in the box but the referee swallowed his whistle.

59’-63’- A large fight broke out between the two sides. Ocampo-Chavez had been harrassed off the ball all half and things finally boiled over. Dhillon was issued a yellow card and N’Toko was shown a red for something not seen by the cameras.

68’- Burke-Gilroy cleared a Locomotive header earmarked for the top corner off the line.

70’- The Defiance left Omar Salgado wide open on a corner. Lowell made a great save with his leg on Salgado’s first shot but the Defiance missed a couple chances to clear the ball and it found Salgado again. This time he slammed it past Lowell. 0-2

Talking Points

Jamie Lowell impressed in his first Defiance appearance

Jamie Lowell is a 17-year-old goalkeeper who joined the Sounders Academy from Seacoast United — based in New Hampshire — at the end of last year. He has played 15 matches with the Academy but Saturday night was his first time on the field for the Defiance. He took advantage of his chance.

He was the main reason the Defiance were in the game, especially in the first half. Lowell made saves with balls bouncing along the ground, with rockets headed to the top corner and with shots taken in close. He used his hands, his legs and his fist. Lowell controlled his box well, making good strong punches to help a backline that struggles in the air. There weren’t a ton of times he had the ball at his feet, but he completed all of his short and medium passes. This was as good a debut as could be asked for.

Lowell is heading to The University of Maryland in the fall, but hopefully we can see him a few more times before he starts his collegiate journey and maybe again in 1-4 years when it concludes.

Will the Defiance get a win on the road this season

This match seemed like the Defiance’s best chance so far to get a win on the road this season. They had just played their best match of the season a week ago, and their second best three weeks ago. Locomotive were in the midst of a freefall that started 8 matches ago with the loss of Jerome Kiesewetter. All signs pointed to the Defiance at least getting a point in El Paso.

Instead the Defiance took the field and immediately looked nothing like the team from last week which was connected and flowing in attack and sturdy and smart in the back. The only thing that changed was the venue. It is likely they won’t get a win on the road this season, and maybe we should be okay with that.

They are an incredibly young team with a lot of players who are experiencing flying 2-4 times a month for the first time in their life, staying in hotels away from family in cities they have never been to. This is made even harder by Tacoma’s location relative to other teams. They travel more miles in a season than any other team in the USL Championship, and no other teams besides Portland are particularly close. I could go on, but the point is that maybe expecting them to play well on the road is unrealistic. Perhaps the experience they are gaining is enough.

Highlights

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. Shandon Hopeau (—)
  2. Denso Ulysse (—)
  3. Jesse Daley (—)
  4. Marlon Vargas (—)
  5. Sam Rogers (—)

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