TUKWILA, Wash. — Tacoma Defiance are still undefeated on the season. Saturday night’s shootout loss goes in the record books as a draw. Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation North Texas SC pulled off the bonus-point shootout win, converting six of their seven attempts. The 6-5 penalty win dampened the spirits of a team that played well enough for the draw that the rest of global soccer recognizes. NTX is a preseason favorite to win the West with some thinking Defiance, St. Louis, and Monarchs might be able to compete.
At Starfire last night, Defiance held their own against a side that has produced a handful of United States national team players.
Three Things I Liked
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez looks dominant at this level
Whereas in the win over the Monarchs Ocampo-Chavez was a low-touch forward who just needed to hover around the box, against North Texas he was expected to defend. Postmatch, head coach Wade Webber pointed out that Fonz started with a defensive role trying to shade the NTX 6. When that wasn’t working they shifted his role and Defiance was able to permit possession by NTX CBs, but basically stifled their ability to attack. If these two matches are any indication, AOC may have more untapped potential than he had been given credit for. Development is not linear, and a player that young can leap forward in an environment that previously looked like failure.
Oh, AOC scored another goal. He now has 3 on the young season, the only player to have more than 2 when Sunday’s matches kicked off.
Marlon Vargas is the next 8
To my eyes, Defiance were in a 4-flat 3-3 for most of the match. That meant that all three midfielders (Juan Alvarez, Marlon Vargas, Danny Leyva) were expected to attack and defend equally. They also had plenty of freedom to move around. Vargas took the biggest advantage of that, almost acting like a free-8 for much of the match. His defense was solid, and Webber called his performance the most complete of the players on the night (goalkeeper Wyatt Nelson was second). Marlon’s transition from all-attack winger to false-9 to free-8 shows a great maturity in the 21-year-old El Salvador internatioanl. For an org that seems to keep putting out 6/8 hybrids he may just be next.
He’s also the next leader
Vargas was once one of the youngest players in the org, still just 21 he is simultaneously a seasoned veteran entering his fifth pro season and still a youngster. Asked who he looks to as a guide for his new role, Vargas told Sounder at Heart:
“Tom Brewitt, Taylor Mueller — who retired — Christian Herrera with Colorado Springs Switchbacks — I learned from them. For players we have now, Randy Mendoza is a true leader and as you can see a warrior. I just try to implement from them with the young guys so that when they drop down they can lead as well.”
Also, he paneka’d the penalty.
“The goalkeeper was chirping a little bit so I set him up. He’s a good keeper, but if they’re going to talk, I got do what I can to keep them quiet.”
Randy Mendoza’s ability to attack
Last season, Mendoza was at his best when he was sitting back and being the USL Championship version of Nouhou. Saturday night he was frequently higher than the midfield three, entering the attack looking to cross and interplay with Reed Baker-Whiting (who in the second straight week was the first name outside of my The Defiant polling). He’s 5th on the squad for xG+xA, 6th in Goals Added, and 4th for Interrupting among players with a 100+ minutes.
I repeat myself — development is not linear.
Two Concerns I Have
Shootouts are too stressful
It’s a shame that Wyatt Nelson’s night will get remembered for only stopping one of seven kicks from the spot. Nelson was strong throughout the day with a few good to great stops and distribution that looked comfortable, especially considering that he’s not a pro yet.
But, this league wanted the drama of shootouts, so that’s what we got — the dumb stressful situation of regular season matchday two feeling like a failure because a well played draw sits in our heads like a loss because North Texas made one more penalty over a stretch of seven attempts.
When the stadium announcer (‘sup Hugo) read out that the match wasn’t over fans were confused. They didn’t want the drama of a regular season shoootout.
Defiance need to put a team away
It should never have gotten to a shootout. Defiance were so close to scoring a second, including one moment when it took two North Texas players to keep Marlon Vargas off the scoreboard. The keeper blocked the shot but not enough to stop its momentum toward goal. An NTX centerback cleared it off the line while one Defiance player was out on the wing celebrating a near goal. While the xG was basically level for the two teams, Defiance had the opportunities to go up 2-1 and only a few weak moments on the right flank gave North Texas one of those unstoppable goals.
Check This Stat
Reed Baker-Whiting, who played as a winger, won 3 tackles and 7 duels. His was the best example of the defend-from-the-front attitude Webber’s gone with this year.
You’ll have to watch them on the league website, they aren’t embeddable.
Tacoma Defiance 1 (5) – North Texas SC 1 (6)
Saturday, April 2, 2022
Venue: Starfire Stadium
Referee: Christopher Calderon
Weather: 54 and partly cloudy
TAC – Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Marlon Vargas) 27’
NTX – Bernard Kamungo (Hope Avayevu) 70’
TAC – Sam Adeniran (saved)
NTX – Derek Waldeck (scored)
TAC – Marlon Vargas (scored)
NTX – Blake Pope (saved)
TAC – Danny Leyva (scored)
NTX – Collin Smith (scored)
TAC – Dylan Teves (scored)
NTX – Luis Miguel Cardoso Santos (scored)
TAC – Randy Mendoza (scored)
NTX – Bernard Kamungo (scored)
TAC – Hal Uderitz (scored)
NTX – Lucas Barlett (scored)
TAC – Sota Kitahara (missed)
NTX – Isaiah Paker (scored)
TAC – Randy Mendoza (caution) 89’
LINEUPS & STATS
Tacoma Defiance – Wyatt Nelson, Dylan Teves, Hal Uderitz, Eric Kinzner, Randy Mendoza, Marlon Vargas, Danny Leyva, Sam Adeniran, Juan Alvarez (Sota Kitahara 66’), Reed Baker-Whiting (Valentin Sabella 76’), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Travian Sousa 88’)
Substitutes not used: Wallis Lapsley, Achille Robin
Total shots: 14
Shots on goal: 6
North Texas SC – Antonio Carrera, Blake Pope, Lucas Bartlett, Chase Niece (Paul Bello Amedume 76’), Isaiah Parker, Blaine Ferri (Tarik Scott 66’), Derek Waleck, Santiago Ferreira, Pablo Torre (Collin Smith 66’), Hope Avayevu (Luis Migues Cardoso Santos 81’), Bernard Kamungo
Substitutes not used: Seth Wilson, Paul Bello Amedume, Tómas Lacerda
Total shots: 15
Shots on goal: 7