Once upon a time, Tacoma Defiance and road wins were something that only happened once a year. But in 2022 that changed, dramatically. Defiance won five matches on their journey to the Pacific Division title. After three road games in 2023 they have five points with one regulation victory — over 2022 powerhouse Houston Dynamo 2.
Beating Houston was hard. Defiance was outplayed most of the match, struggling to keep possession. The midfield was constantly overrun. Dynamo 2 had a few MLS players playing down. HD2 owned the midfield; Defiance struggled defensively.
That late second half surge shows exactly how Defiance can win. Despite being thoroughly outplayed for 69’ minutes, two good runs can change everything. The first forced a second yellow card for a Dynamo 2 player and drew a penalty, which Hal Uderitz slotted home. A second run nearly forced a Houston player to score an own goal — Gio Miglietti, the former UW Husky centerback, slammed home the rebound.
At home against Los Dos, Wade Webber’s men pretty much dominated, but struggled to find strong scoring opportunities. The first one came off of an Andrew Thomas throw that went from 18 to 18. Eythor Bjørgolfsson chased it down, got the first touch, and all the Galaxy ii could do was bring him down. Uderitz scored the pen, of course, because that’s what Defiance CBs do.
Bjørgolfsson also didn’t get an assist on goal No. 2. It was his shot from a Braudílio Rodrigues pass that was deflected to Paul Rothrock’s feet. Brau then netted his second of the season to finish off the game.
In between those two wins, four Defiance players (and several Sounders who get loaned down regularly) contributed to the 5-4 win over San Diego Loyal in the U.S. Open Cup.
Cody Baker’s dozen roles
There’s currently no natural left back on the Sounders, as Nouhou is still ill. The usual backup is injured. That’s why Cody Baker started at left back in the Open Cup.
How did this naturally right-sided player get that start?
“That’s Brian being bold,” Wade Webber said Wednesday, “which I love ... Cody is pretty good with both feet. And we’ve been training him there.”
In the Academy, Cody was mostly a CB. With Defiance he’s been mostly a right back, sometimes a right wingback, once a defensive midfielder, and now, on three occasions, a left back.
Webber outlined the organization’s depth chart, which starts with the stars on the first team and stretches down into the youngest Academy players. Baker is listed in multiple positions.
“We put him in a couple places because we think he projects on either side of the field. You don’t have to be left footed to play left back in the system or in most systems — it helps. But there are some times you want that ball played from a central defender to a left back to be actually right footed around the corner, kind of into the gap and rather than just always played on the outside of the of the opponent, you can play it on the inside and a right footer does that more comfortably.”
Baker’s origins as a centerback probably help him as the organization assesses their left back needs. In the attack, that left back is mostly an LCB. Cody Baker can do that.
More than his positional acumen, it’s his defense that will get him a shot.
“Brian trusts Cody’s defensive qualities — whether it’s right or left. Whatever Cody gives us at the attacking end of the field is a bonus. It’s the defending piece he’s got to be good at. And if he is, you know! There there might be a spot on the first team down in his future, but he has to earn it.”
Andrew Thomas and Eythor Bjørgolfsson deserve assists
Soccer doesn’t give assists for good plays. It could, but then it would be a different game with different feelings.
Still, Thomas and Bjørgolfsson created a wonderful moment. That rapid throw from 18 to 18, that burst of run that resulted in a penalty — it’s something to behold.
It’s also something that Tom Dutra wants to see more from the young goalkeepers.
“Tommy and I have talked about that, that that’s something he wants. He wants the younger goalkeepers in the roster to keep pushing. We have pace. Whether it’s Eythor, Giorgi, Blake, Travian, Paul Rothrock. We have a lot of guys that if Andrew gets his hands on the ball and the other team is on a set piece so they’ve pushed up there is he will throw it over any back four.”
Andrew and Eythor proved that they could do it, and earn a goal out of it. Now every MLS Next Pro team has to prepare for an attacking set-piece that turns into a Defiance attack as fast as a QB can throw a football.
It feels a bit weird to re-use a heading from the last notebook, but it’s still true. Sounders fans are used to the mystical way that AB Cissoko never misses a kick from the spot. It’s about time that they get used to the same from Hal Uderitz, who scored a PK against Houston and Los Angeles. He now has four goals on the season, good for sixth in the league.
Now that Marlon Vargas is with Rapids 2, who knows which non-CB would take a pen for this squad. There’s only been one shootout this season. The takers were two CBs, a LB, a DM and a forward.
Players who could get called up to an Open Cup match or in case of injury.
- Right back Cody Baker — He started at left back in the Open Cup and then came on as a right back in the win over Galaxy II. Baker plays the two sides quite differently. In his typical right-sided play he gets forward, contributing to the attack. On the left side he sits back and absorbs, more like the youth CB he once was. That flexibility bodes quite well for his future.
- Right winger Paul ‘Future President’ Rothrock — Rothrock cannot be stopped. Whenever he’s on the field, he’s immediately influential. His motor is like Nico Lodeiro’s. Always active, Paul applies pressure to win the ball back. With the ball, he looks to create. He now has a league-leading five assists and he scored against Los Dos. His home is on the right wing.
- Target forward Eythor Bjørgolfsson — Bjørgolfsson attracts so much attention when he’s on the field. There are few times when he gets a touch that there aren’t two defenders on him, which is good if he can pass quickly out of the coverage, but bad if he wants to score. He created two of the goals in the win over LA. He earned the penalty by breaking into a full-field sprint and being torn down in the penalty area as he received a throw from Andrew Thomas. Eythor’s blocked shot became goal two when Rothrock finished it.
Keep watching: Winger Georgi Minoungou just returned to play. He’s highly regarded and could start showing soon. If Uderitz keeps scoring, maybe he continues getting Open Cup calls.
Tacoma Defiance 3 – LA Galaxy II 1
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Venue: Starfire Sports Stadium
Referee: Corbyn May
Assistants: Cephas Quartson, Eric Krueger
Fourth official: Jaclyn Metz
Weather: 58 degrees and cloudy
TAC – Fito Ovalle (penalty) 42’
TAC – Paul Rothrock 69’
LA – Aaron Bibout (penalty) 78’
TAC – Braudílio Rodrigues (Paul Rothrock) 80’
TAC – Blake Bowen (caution) 7’
TAC – Antoni Herrera (caution) 24’
LA – Marcus Ferkranus (caution) 25’
LA – Adrián González (caution) 41’
TAC – Frank Daroma (caution) 44’
TAC – Fito Ovalle (caution) 51’
TAC – Andrew Thomas (caution) 77’
LA – Ascel Essengue (caution) 82’
LA – Ascel Essengue (ejection) 90’ + 3
LINEUPS & STATS
Tacoma Defiance – Andrew Thomas; Blake Bowen (Cody Baker 62’), Hal Uderitz, Stuart Hawkins , Travian Sousa; Fito Ovalle – captain, Frank Daroma (Snyder Brunell 61’); Antonio Herrera (Paul Rothrock 61’), Braudílio Rodrigues, Georgi Minoungou (Sebastian Gomez 73’); Eythor Bjørgolfsson (Gio Miglietti 83’)
Substitutes not used: Wallis Lapsley, Elias Katsaros, Jack Jeremiah, Chris Aquino
Total shots: 15
Shots on goal: 7
LA Galaxy II – Simon Jillson; Ascel Essengue, Marcus Ferkranus, Carson Klein (Diego Lopez 67’), Matteo Carbone (Elijah Amadin 85’); Adam Saldana, Adrián González; Jonathan Perez (Brandon Téllez 85’), Alejandro Alcala (Juan Calderon 85’), Axel Picazo; Aaron Bibout
Substitutes not used: Brendan Bell, Aaron Cervantes, Javier Zapien
Total shots: 10
Shots on goal: 4
Friday, May 5 against Real Monarchs SLC at Zions Bank Stadium (7:00 pm PT / MLS Season Pass). The Monarchs are eighth in the West, with a propensity to give up goals. Defiance beat SLC 5-nil earlier this season, with Minnesota2 winning 3-0 and KC2 winning 4-nil. The Jámison Olave-led Monarchs have two shutouts in six played, while Tacoma has only given up more than one goal once in their five matches.
Real Monarchs best two players (using G+ from ASA and playing at least half of available minutes) are CB Delentz Pierre and winger Tyrone Mondi. They’d be fourth and fifth on Defiance.