It was hard to predict how the Tacoma Defiance would react to their loss against Phoenix Rising. They played as well as they had all season but still lost 4-2 thanks to a late-match collapse. It would be reasonable to be demoralized by a result like that but instead it seemed to lift the Defiance for tonight’s match against San Antonio FC.
The Defiance owned the whole of the first half, led by an active, effective press and the unrelenting effort and skill from Hopeau. They could have easily had more but they still ended the half with 2 goals.
The second half was a bit more of a mixed bag. The Defiance press began to languish — do to humans not having an infinite supply of energy — which exposed their shaky backline. San Antonio had most of the ball and should have score 1 or 2 in the half’s opening 30 minutes, but poor finishing kept them off the board. The defiance then earned and converted a penalty which sent them off to the races again. San Antonio did score one goal in the final 15 but their desperate attacking left them exposed to the Defiance counter which burnt them twice making the final score 5-1.
3’- San Antonio played in a diagonal long ball from 70 yards out. Bryan Meredith had plenty of time to line up and catch the ball which ended up inside his six. He didn't, so Kai Greene was able to connect on a hip high volley. It almost went through Meredith’s legs, but he did just enough to keep it out.
9’- Justin Dhillon committed a foul and the ref immediately pulled out his yellow card, but then just held it at his hip for a full minute for some reason. Eventually, after talking to Dhillon two seperate times, he gave him the yellow. Bizarre scenes early.
17’- Hopeau turned over Ebenezer Ackon in the San Antonio defensive third. Then he made a direct aggressive run into the box and found Dhillon in tons of space at the spot with a cross. Dhillon swept it in to the net with his first touch. 1-0
29’- Hopeau led Tacoma out on a 2 on 1 break. He drove right at his defender and made the defender commit fully to him before slipping a pass over to Danny Robles who finished his chance well. 2-0
53’- Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez intercepted a ball in the attacking third. He drove towards the box and then did well to find Hopeau making a run on the far side. Hopeau used some nice footwork to clear himself space for a left-footed shot, but he sent it well wide.
59’- Brian Gomez drove into the Defiance box and worked himself space for a shot from 8 yards out but sent it over the goal.
66’- There was a flurry in front of the Defiance goal. Meredith stopped the first shot and outfield players blocked the next three. Somehow the Defiance kept their shutout.
74’- Moisés Hernández was called for handling in the box. Ocampo-Chavez converted the penalty. 3-0
80’- Tacoma got out on the break again. Nick Hinds found Ethan Doublelaere streaking unmarked down the center. Doublelaere calmly curled his shot by Matt Cardone for his first goal in a professional league. 4-0
88’- San Antonio got their opener via Joshua Yaro. 4-1
90’- Dhillon got the lead back with a nice curler past Cardone off an Alec Diaz assist. 5-1
Shandon Hopeau has well and truly arrived
The Defiance winger backed up his solid match on Tuesday with an absolutely incredible one. It was the best performance by a player on the Sounders USL team since Darwin Jones’ hat trick for S2 in 2015.
Hopeau was everywhere against San Antonio, affecting the match with both his offense and defense. His work as part of the Defiance press was a large factor in their first half dominance but he also helped out in the defensive third. In total he had 4 tackles, 4 recoveries and 2 interceptions.
He led the Defiance attack and, especially on counters, showed exceptional skill and maturity. His work leading up to his assist to Robles was perfect; driving straight at the defender so he couldn’t take up position in a passing lane and then passing it to Robles as soon as the defender fully committed to him. There are plenty of MLS players who don’t execute a counter that well.
The Defiance players might not be overmatched
There's a lot of understandable concern that the USL Championship might be too high a level for the Defiance players to benefit from playing in it. The two games this week should put some of the worries at ease. The players showed that when they can complete a gameplan they are every bit skilled and even physical enough to play with the fully professional, unaffiliated teams in the USL.
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 (—)
- Danny Robles (↑2)
- Marlon Vargas (—)
- Jesse Daley (↓2)
Tacoma Defiance I 5-1 I San Antonio FC
Friday, August 30, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium I Tacoma, Washington
Referee: Elijio Arreguin
Assistants: Cameron Siler, Adam Sanchez
Fourth Official: Alexis Johnston
TAC - Justin Dhillon (Shandon Hopeau) 17’
TAC - Danny Robles (Shandon Hopeau) 29’
TAC - Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (penalty) 75’
TAC - Ethan Dobbelaere (Nick Hinds) 80’
SA - Joshua Yaro (Jack Barmby) 88’
TAC - Justin Dhillon (Alec Diaz) 90’
TAC - Justin Dhillon (caution) 9’
TAC - Jack Barmby (caution) 31’
SA - Moises Hernandez (caution) 74’
TAC - Jesse Daley (caution) 86’
SA - Walter Restrepo (caution) 86’
LINEUPS & STATS
TAC - Bryan Meredith; Antonee Burke-Gilroy, Aleks Berkolds, Josh Atencio, Nick Hinds; Jesse Daley, Danny Leyva; Shandon Hopeau (Ray Serrano 76’), Danny Robles (Ethan Dobbelaere 65’), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Alec Diaz 82’); Justin Dhillon
Substitutes not used: Trey Muse, Denso Ulysse, Ever Rubio, Chris Hegardt
Total shots: 12
Shots on goal: 7
SA - Matt Cardone; Kai Greene, Joshua Yaro, Ebenezer Ackon; Pecka, Moises Hernandez; Walter Restrepo, Brian Gomez, Jack Barmby, Billy Forbes; Frank Lopez (Ever Guzman 62’)
Substitutes not used: Jonathan Viscosi, Pascal Eboussi, Johnny Fenwick, Michael Lahoud, Cristian Parano
Total shots: 25
Shots on goal: 6