The Tacoma Defiance faced off against Phoenix Rising FC — the best team in the USL Championship Western Conference by a long bit, on a 15-match winning streak — in a rare Tuesday night clash at Cheney Stadium. Most probably prepared themselves for the Defiance to be ran off the pitch, but the Western Conference’s worst team, lifted by the return of Danny Leyva, stepped between the lines and went toe to toe with Rising.
Phoenix looked like scoring early. They came good on that when Adam Jahn put one in after just three minutes. Then Shandon Hopeau and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez took control of the match and created a goal for the Defiance. The two sides got to half even.
Rising made a potentially match changing double sub at 57 minutes but instead of the tide turning for them, they let Defiance score another. It seemed the Defiance might actually end Phoenix’s incredible win streak at 15 but the Arizonan side shifted up a few gears and hit the afterburners in the 80th. They then scored three goals — helped by Bryan Meredith — before the 85th minute.
The Defiance threw their best at Rising, but in the end Phoenix’s prolific attack awoke and won the match 4-2.
3’- Jahn hit a glancing header past Meredith, off the post and in from 10 yards out. 1-0
12’- Phoenix turned the ball over at the top of their own 18, passing the ball right to Hopeau. The Defiance winger wasn’t calm enough and immediately hit a weak off balance shot from 25 yards out that floated softly into Zac Lubin’s arms.
23’- Hopeau played a pass into Ocampo-Chavez who made a nice turn in the box and sent a powerful snap shot off the Rising post.
25’- Hopeau again played a ball in for Ocampo-Chavez. This time Lubin charged out to try to beat Ocampo-Chavez to the ball. The Defiance forward just beat him there and took a touch around Lubin, who then took him down for a penalty. Hopeau buried the penalty kick. 1-1
50’- Danny Robles hit an excellent shot with the outside of his right foot from the top of the box. The power and placement were enough to beat Lubin but not the post.
57’- Junior Flemmings and Kevon Lambert subbed on for Phoenix.
60’- Jonathan Campbell got his pocket picked by Flemmings while he was the last defender. Meredith came out well and smothered Flemmings’ one-on-one chance.
67’- Josh Atencio played a lovely lofted ball into the box for Ocampo-Chavez. With his first touch, Ocampo-Chavez turned the defender on his back by taking the ball out of the air and chopping it behind his plant leg while spinning to face goal. He tried to beat Lubin at the near post but sent it off the side of the net.
72’- Justin Dhillon got in behind. He then slowed the ball down, smartly keeping the recovering defender on his back and found Handwalla Bwana making an open run on the other side of the box. Bwana finished into a wide open net. 2-1
81’- Tacoma conceded a corner and Rising made them pay. Rising sent a ball into the near post where Solomon Asante headed the ball at Meredith who made a mess of things and after a few bobbles sent the ball crawling over the goal line. 2-2
83’- Meredith again made a mess of things in front of his goal. Twice he should have gathered the ball but Adam Jahn poked the free ball, after Meredith’s second failed attempt to gather it, into the net. 2-3
84’- Flemmings worked himself some space at the top of the box and sent a 22 yard curler past Meredith into the bottom corner. 2-4
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is starting to look like a complete striker
Ocampo-Chavez scored zero goals against Phoenix Rising, but that is not an indication of the game he had. The young forward keeps improving and adapting to the upped speed and physicality of the USL Championship. He showed tonight that he is a forward that doesn’t need to score goals to be effective (it should also be noted that he easily could have scored twice tonight, just missing on two attempts from difficult angles.)
Off the ball, Ocampo-Chavez made smart runs that got him in good places and opened up space for his teammates. He showed the ability to hold the ball up and pass effectively out of it. His touches were excellent and he was able to turn Rising defenders at will. He also showed a bit of creativity and lead the Defiance with three chances created. When the Defiance didn’t have the ball, Ocampo-Chavez was a big part of the Defiance’s excellent press.
We have known that Ocampo-Chavez is a very good poacher and finisher. He is starting to show that he is much more than that.
The keeper curse continues
After the brief respite provided by youngster Jamie Lowell’s superb play last match, the struggles of the Defiance goalkeepers returned this week. Meredith was what can only be described as bad, laboring to pass and hang onto the ball all night. He provided just one good moment while being mostly to completely responsible for three of Rising’s goal. I have long been a proponent of the idea that results, and to a certain extent team play, shouldn’t be a cause of concern for the Defiance, the Sounders, and/or Sounders fans. That assertion has perhaps begun to slip when it come to the Defiance’s problems at keeper.
In my mind, the floundering of the Defiance’s keepers presents a couple of unique issues. First, their ability to pass has an outsized effect on the coaching staff’s ability to implement the system they want the players to learn within. The team sometimes has to abandoned their build from the back, possession style of play when the goalies are unable to play their part in it. Second, losing points because of the mistakes of your goalie alone can have a particularly demoralizing effect in that it makes results feel unmoored from the play of the outfield players.
There aren’t any easy solutions to this problem, unfortunately. Trey Muse has to learn how to work on his play somewhere and Meredith is a decent player who seems unable to play well when with the Defiance. That said, it is a situation I think the Sounders orginization should think about improving. Maybe they need a different backup to Stefan Frei who can also perform in the USL, maybe they need to try to sign a second young goalie to provide Muse with competition, or perhaps their is a third solution.
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.)
- Shandon Hopeau (—)
- Denso Ulysse (—)
- Jesse Daley (—)
- Marlon Vargas (—)
- Danny Robles (NEW)
Tacoma Defiance I 2-4 I Phoenix Rising FC
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium I Tacoma, Washington
Referee: Alejandro Mariscal
Assistants: Christian Clerc, Baboucarr Jallow
Fourth Official: Liam Leonard
PHX - Adam Jahn (Solomon Asante) 2’
TAC - Shandon Hopeau (penalty) 26’
TAC - Handwalla Bwana (Justin Dhillon) 72’
PHX - Solomon Asante (Jon Bakero) 81’
PHX - Adam Jahn 83’
PHX - Junior Flemmings (Jose Aguinaga) 84’
PHX - James Musa (caution) 1’
PHX - Kevon Lambert (caution) 67’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Bryan Meredith; Antonee Burke-Gilroy, Aleks Berkolds, Jonathan Campbell, Nick Hinds; Danny Leyva, Josh Atencio; Shandon Hopeau, Danny Robles (Ethan Dobbelaere 70’), Handwalla Bwana (Jesse Daley 85’); Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Justin Dhillon 70’)
Substitutes not used: Trey Muse, Denso Ulysse, Marlon Vargas, Ever Rubio
Total shots: 10
Shots on goal: 4
PHX - Zac Lubin; Mustapha Dumbuya, Joseph Farrell, A.J. Cochran, Amadou Dia; Peter-Lee Vassell (Jon Bakero 73’), James Musa (Kevon Lambert 57’), Jose Aguinaga; Solomon Asante, Joey Calistri (Junior Flemmings 57’); Adam Jahn
Substitutes not used: Carl Woszczynski, Kyle Bjornethun, Corey Whelan, Ben Spencer
Total shots: 17
Shots on goal: 8