Tacoma Defiance announced Thursday night that the team has entered into 2020 Standard USL Loan Agreements with five players from the Seattle Sounders first team. The loan agreements contain a loan recall for MLS, so goalkeepers Stefan Cleveland and Trey Muse, forwards Justin Dhillon and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, and defender/midfielder Alex Roldan will be able to play for both the USL and MLS sides during the 2020 season. All five players will be available for the first game of the Defiance season against Reno 1868 on Friday.
Muse, Dhillon, Ocampo-Chavez and Roldan all saw time with Tacoma in 2019, while Cleveland spent the 2019 season playing in USL League 1 with Lansing Ignite FC.
Notably, Danny Leyva and Handwalla Bwana were not included in the group of players to sign Standard USL Loan Agreements for this season, in spite of seeming likely to see a significant portion of their minutes with Defiance. This doesn’t mean that they won’t see any time with Tacoma in 2020, as they could join the team on short-term loans, but it does seem to suggest that the two midfielders may figure into coach Brian Schmetzer’s plans more than was expected.
In addition to the five players joining from the first team, 11 players have signed USL Academy Agreements to bolster the Defiance squad and gain experience. Goalkeepers Conrad Lee and Jamie Lowell; defenders Leo Burney, Bryson Hankins, Eric Kinzner and Tino Lopez; midfielders Chris Hegardt, Peter Kingston, Sota Kitahara and Alex Villanueva; and forward Austin Brummett will all be eligible to appear in USL Championship games with Tacoma Defiance. Of those 11 players, only Lee, Kinzner and Lopez didn’t appear for the Defiance in 2019. While Hegardt led that group of academy players with six appearances, Alex Villanueva had the most starts and minutes played with four starts and 385 minutes.
The 16 players added today join 16 players already on the Defiance roster. The two groups of new players are part of the evolving plan for the Defiance. More experienced players like Taylor Mueller and Justin Dhillon, as well as Collin Fernandez and even Shandon Hopeau and Azriel Gonzalez, are surrounded by younger players — a mix of current academy players and players signed to USL contracts — in an effort to provide more stable environment for the development of young players, while also being more competitive in the USL Championship.
Fans can see this plan in action on Friday at 7 PM as coach Chris Little and Tacoma Defiance play at Cheney Stadium. The game will be aired on ESPN+ for those unable to be there in-person.