Coming off one of their most dominant performances ever, the Tacoma Defiance very much had the shoe on the other foot when they visited Austin FC II last Friday. Although the final score was a respectable 2-1 loss, the Defiance were forced to defend for almost the entirety of the second half and did not manage a single shot during that time.
After Travian Sousa was sent off for a second yellow card in the 66th minute with the Defiance leading 1-0, AFCII were completely dominant and found the equalizer through a penalty. Still, it looked like they might salvage a point until Andrew Thomas couldn’t quite control a long shot from outside the box that fell to the feet of Cristo Vela, who deposited it for a 94th minute winner.
The first half was much better from Defiance. Even if they only took two shots, they were at least keeping AFCII from creating much danger and goalkeeper Andrew Thomas was doing a good job of cleaning up anything he saw. The Defiance got a nice break when Eythor Bjorgolfsson was shoved in the back on a cross, drawing a penalty. AB Cissoko stepped up and calmly dispatched the shot, making him 9-for-9 on both penalties and in shootouts for the Defiance/Sounders.
The equalizer came in the 84th minute after Gio Miglietti was judged to have handled the ball and Alonso Ramirez converted.
g+ GameFlow: MLS Next Pro Regular Season @AustinFCII v @TACdefiance on April 07, 2023. #DefiantlyTacoma #ATXvTAC pic.twitter.com/HCfNq5wURG— GameFlow (@GameFlowxPG) April 8, 2023
One of the things that Defiance head coach Wade Webber has often expressed frustration over since moving to MLS Next Pro is the lack of atmosphere in most games. AFCII didn’t quite live up to the atmosphere they had in their home opener, but there was a steady drumbeat of noise that at least came through on the livestream.
Defiance didn’t exact rise to the occasion but in a developmental league like this it was still valuable.
“The more times we can be in atmospheres like that where we are the enemy or the villain is good for the players,” Webber said.
This was not a particularly good performance by the Defiance, but it should be said that whatever they lacked in sharpness they came close to replacing with grit. The Defiance actually won more duels — 46-44 — and blocked six shots. They also had a rather eye-popping 32 clearances and 14 interceptions.
They also looked like they were going to salvage a point despite being pretty badly outplayed until they surrendered a goal on what was likely the final possession of the game.
Three who shined
Cissoko: The centerback at times seemed determined to pull the Defiance across the finish line, constantly putting his body in the way of shots and never backing down to a challenge. He also converted his penalty, of course, and continued his remarkable accuracy whenever kicking from the spot.
Reed Baker-Whiting: There wasn’t a singular moment that Baker-Whiting shined, but for an 18-year-old still learning the right back position, he showed some remarkable composure. This is the kind of game Baker-Whiting needs to experience in order to take the next step.
Bjorgolfsson: There were long stretches of this game where the big forward could not get a touch, but he was battling throughout and never shied from any contact. He is absolutely a handful for opposing defenders and it’s not hard to imagine him developing into a solid professional forward.
Defiance have the week off and will return to action on April 23 when they visit Houston Dynamo 2.
Tacoma Defiance 1 – Austin FC II 2
Friday, April 7, 2023
Venue: Parmer Field
Referee: Luis Guardia
Assistants: Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Dumaine
Fourth official: Samuel Zamora
Weather: 53 degrees and cloudy
TAC – Abdoulaye Cissoko (penalty) 22’
ATX – Alonso Ramírez (penalty) 84’
ATX – Christo Vela 90+4’
ATX – Alonso Ramírez (caution) 24’
TAC – Fito Ovalle (caution) 25’
ATX – Cheick Touré (caution) 31’
TAC – Braudilio Rodriguez (caution) 47’
TAC – Travian Sousa (caution) 66’
TAC – Travian Sousa (ejection) 66’
TAC – Reed Baker-Whiting (caution) 73’
TAC – Abdoulaye Cissoko (caution) 84’
LINEUPS & STATS
Tacoma Defiance – Andrew Thomas; Reed Baker-Whiting, Hal Uderitz, Abdoulaye Cissoko, Travian Sousa; Fito Ovalle – captain (Blake Bowen HT), Danny Leyva (Cody Baker 80’), Frank Daroma; Paul Rothrock, Eythor Bjørgolfsson, Braudilio Rodrigues (Gio Miglietti 70’)
Substitutes not used: Wallis Lapsley, Elias Katsaros
Total shots: 2
Shots on goal: 2
Austin FC II – Damian Las; Cheick Touré, Salvatore Mazzaferro (Charlie Asensio 86’), Kipp Keller, Joe Hafferty; Steeve Louis Jean (Micah Burton 76’), Alonso Ramírez, CJ Fodrey (Christo Vela 76’), Valentin Noël, David Rodríguez; Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Sebastian Pineau 86’)
Substitutes not used: Eric López, Christopher Pinkham, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Jackson Walti, Emmanuel Johnson
Total shots: 18
Shots on goal: 4