A three-match road trip for Tacoma Defiance turned into one match rescheduled (at Austin Bold is now October 6) and two losses. Tacoma was shut out by both Las Vegas Lights and Phoenix Rising in front of two crowds totalling over 15,000.
Against Vegas they fell 2-0 and looked poor. Against best-in-West Phoenix, Tacoma were more than not overwhelmed, they held their own, forcing Ben Lundt into 9 saves.
Better, but need consistency
Yes, Tacoma Defiance are better than they’ve been in several years. Their 2-2-1, -2 record shows that. The advanced metrics show room for improvement, more so in the attack than defense. That Vegas loss was particularly bad in the xGF department as Defiance had an expected Goal Differential of -1.73, almost solely responsible for their -1.90 overall for the year.
Defiance expected goals for and against 2017-21
Finding consistency will be important if the dream of the second season is to come true. Tacoma can hold its own with quality teams — the Phoenix Rising loss has a scoreboard lie, it was actually a close match. Player talent is apparent. It needs to work together, and there cannot be a half where the majority of the XI let up.
Practice makes fun
Loan-downs can improve the overall talent of the squad, but when they are disconnected from the rest of the squad things can go sidewise quickly. This was no more apparent than in the loss at Las Vegas. Favored against the struggling Lights, Defiance looked like a squad that hadn’t played together.
It was their worst xG match of the young season, and they struggled to connect passes.
But, after another week practicing together Tacoma’s players looked much stronger. Against mighty Phoenix Rising Wade Webber’s men looked solid in the first half. The 1-0 scoreline after 45 minutes was a bit unfair. Every bit of potential and strength of the full squad was obvious. Together and unified the Baymen are a solid side that should compete for the 4th spot in the Pacific.
The emergence of Eric Kinzner and Randy Mendoza means that even without Abdoulaye Cissoko being loaned down Webber can field a 3-man backline. Taylor Mueller and Tom Brewitt both look like USL Championship stalwarts.
Mendoza is a flex defender who can play on both sides. Lacking in size as a CB, he makes up for it being tiny, but fierce. Kinzner is larger, less mobile, and armed with left foot that can drive the ball like a five-wood.
Drop in AB, and the 3-man defense looks good. But, they can get overwhelmed if the midfield press is broken. The DMs on the squad all look stronger in possession than they do in the attack.
With only two center forwards (Diaz, Adeniran) on the squad, Webber counts on wingers for offense. He can also insert Marlon Vargas as a false 9.
To improve defense, improve attack
The last notebook contained a list of five players with a goal. In the weeks since no one has added to that tally. Forward Samuel Adeniran created enough danger in Phoenix, but couldn’t find the net. Jimmy Medranda, on Standard Loan from Seattle Sounders, played an excellent wingback, but forced long shots that weren’t dangerous rather than looking to create danger via the pass.
The rest of the wingers and forwards were lacking.
Loandowns Reed Baker-Whiting and Ethan Dobbeleare started as the wingers in both losses. Neither created danger. That puts more pressure on the wingbacks to enter the attack, reducing their abilities to control the opposition.
Scoring just a goal would tilt the field in a way that enables the defenders to do what they do best — destroy hope.
Next three matches
Wednesday June 16 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks — 6 PM PT at Weidner Field, ESPN+
Wednesday June 23 hosting Real Monarchs — 7 PM PT at Cheney Stadium, ESPN+
Sunday June 28 hosting LA Galaxy II — 1:30 PM PT at Cheney Stadium, ESPN+