With a shorter season, MLS Next Pro standings are already important. With a small playoff structure, Tacoma Defiance have to grab home points — at least a draw and bonus point in each match — to ensure themselves a second season. The playoffs are important because that means more matches to develop talent for the Seattle Sounders.
Sunday’s match will be tough. Houston Dynamo 2 are at the top of the table with five victories in five played. Their +9 goal differential shows just how hard they are to stop. Their clear scoring leader is Roberto Avila.
Tacoma will have to manage the game. Head coach Wade Webber has spoken about how that means giving up territory in specific parts of the pitch, not just possession. It means limiting touches for dangerous opponents and forcing the less effective opponents to succeed.
Defiance will also need to get scoring support from more than just Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez. To beat Dynamo 2 will probably take three goals or more.
Why you should watch
- Refinement of the B Team — With the weekend off from MLS play, the backend of the First Team will need playing time. They aren’t likely to be involved in the CCL Final — just see how leg 1 went. But they will be needed at Dallas and in the Open Cup on May 11. It will be up to Wade Webber to get quality minutes for AB Cissoko, Sam Adeniran, Josh Atencio and others. And of course, they still want to win games — have you met a Sounder?
- Left line grind— They may not be the hype prospects, but 26-year-old Randy Mendoza and 19-year-old Eric Kinznzer just battle — every week, every 50-50 ball, every tackle. Now the captain, Mendoza is following a bit in the Estrada and Dhillon mold, maintaining the attitude that helped him on his comeback from a facial fracture. Kinzner used to be in the USYNT picture, but not getting playing time over two guys now on MLS contracts and the greatest USL defender in the modern era dropped him off those hype lists. He’s now bigger, stronger and wiser.
- ‘Fonz — Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is tied for the league lead in goals scored, where he’s been at the start and end of basically every matchweek. Breaking into the Sounders attack is darn-near impossible. There are DPs and TAM players in the starting lineup and two top-75 scorers on the bench. It would be easy for AOC to give up, especially after a couple down seasons. But he didn’t. He’s no longer a flash player succeeding in wide spaces. Ocampo-Chavez has become a savvy veteran ghosting into space, able to head the ball on target like a 30-something. #GoalAGame.
How to watch
Match date/kickoff time: Sunday, May 1, 3:00 PM PT
Venue: Starfire Stadium
Online Streaming: MLS NEXT Pro
Defiance Absences: Cody Baker (ankle)
Dynamo 2: Unknown