American lower division professional soccer seems to be in a perpetual stage of reinvention. This year there is the introduction of MLS NEXT Pro, hosts of Tacoma Defiance. Defiance, now playing 10 of their 12 scheduled home games at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, Washington, are essentially in their 3.0 stage. Once S2 playing at Starfire and then Tacoma Defiance at Cheney Stadium, Defiance 3.0 play at both stadiums they’ve called home and are now in a new league.
Sunday’s match is against a team that they’ve known well — Real Monarchs SLC. Monarchs have dominated Defiance over the years with a 9-2-2 record against Tacoma. Like Defiance, Monarchs have unique branding and are not merely a MLS deuce. Both teams have developed players to their MLS sides. Real Monarchs also have a regular season and postseason trophy.
These two teams should be favorites in the Pacific Division. Both existed last year with Portland and Vancouver returning to lower division play and San Jose starting a team from scratch. North Texas SC are the favorites of the West, the Dallas deuce having never finished below 4th in USL League One and winning the double in 2019.
Defiance Roster additions
Sounders FC First Team players Sam Adeniran, Josh Atencio, Reed Baker-Whiting, Abdoulaye Cissoko, Stefan Cleveland, Danny Leyva, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Jackson Ragen, Dylan Teves, Andrew Thomas and Obed Vargas are all on Standard Loan, eligible to play in a match with either team throughout the season.
Sounders FC Academy players Levi Beiber, Snyder Brunell, Jayson Castillo, Alex Hall, Stuart Hawkins, Antonio Herrera, Jackson Jeremiah, Michael Luande, Wyatt Nelson and Etienne Veillard are on amateur contracts, able to play for Defiance and maintain college eligibility.
Why you should watch
- First Teamers playing down — With the Sounders off due to the international break several of their younger talents should take the pitch at Starfire today. Since ten of the players available on Standard Loan have extensive experience in the Academy and/or with Defiance their integration with the side should be strong.
- Defiance’s Old Guard — Webber’s returning players include six Academy grads, plus The Defiant of 2021 — Randy Mendoza. These men (only Juan Alvarez is high school aged) bring back the fighting spirit of the side that was one win shy of the playoffs last season.
- New bodies — There are seven players new to the team. The mix of internationals, draftees, and lower division free agents look to follow in the steps of Delem, Nouhou, Dhillon, and Adeniran. Seattle has a solid history of using S2/Defiance to craft a quality player from outside of the Acadmy.
How to watch
Match date/kickoff time: Sunday, March 27, 12:00 PM PT
Venue: Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila, WA
Online Streaming: MLS NEXT Pro
Defiance Absences: Cody Baker (ankle), Sota Kitahara (knee)
Monarchs Absences: Axel Kei (groin), Blake Kellly (hip), Tyrone Mondi (ankle)