Tacoma Defiance today announced its roster for the club’s inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season. Juan Alvarez, Cody Baker, Joe Hafferty, Eric Kinzner, Sota Kitahara, Randy Mendoza and Marlon Vargas all return from last year’s USL Championship squad, in addition to Sounders FC 2022 MLS SuperDraft selections Achille Robin (pending P1 visa) and Hal Uderitz. Additionally, the club has added Alfred Gombe-Fei and Georgi Minoungou via loan from MFK Vyksov (both pending P1 visa and international transfer certificate), as well as free agents Wallis Lapsley, Valentin Sabella and Travian Sousa. All transactions are pending MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation approval.
“The year-over-year strength of the Defiance roster is a continued testament to the success of our player development pathway, the tireless commitment from our developmental staff, amalgamated with the support from our first team, front office, and ownership, allowing us to create an environment that graduated five players from our 2021 roster into our first team,” said Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner.
Defenders Baker, Hafferty, Kinzner and Mendoza all return to help anchor the backline for Defiance in 2022. Baker, an Issaquah native, appeared in 18 matches last season, recording 14 tackles won and 26 clearances. Hafferty, who appeared on Sounders FC’s roster via a short-term loan for the club’s match against F.C. Motagua on February 17, started four matches last season, amassing 16 clearances and eight interceptions. Kinzner appeared in 19 matches in 2021, starting 18 and recording 60 tackles won. Mendoza tallied 16 starts last season, recording 27 interceptions and 42 clearances.
Tacoma also returns midfielders Alvarez, Kitahara and Vargas. Alvarez, a Tukwila native, started 12 of 21 games in 2021, recording one goal. Kitahara made 11 appearances for Tacoma last season before being loaned to Austrian side Pinzgau Saalfelden, where he started 15 of 17 appearances. Vargas scored two goals in 10 starts for Defiance in 2021, while also appearing on the bench for the El Salvador National Team for two friendlies in November.
“We are very excited about our roster heading into the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season,” said Tacoma Defiance Head Coach Wade Webber. “We have a great group of young talent we expect will be competitive in this new league and we can’t wait to kick off our campaign against Real Monarchs.”
Defiance adds a pair of centerbacks in Sounders FC 2022 MLS SuperDraft selections Udertiz and Robin. Robin, a French international, was a part of a University of Washington squad that finished in second place at the 2021 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament. Uderitz, a Snohomish native and Seattle University product, started 21 of 22 games in the 20221 fall season.
Midfielder Georgi Minoungou and forward Alfred Gombe-Fei have joined Tacoma’s roster on loan from MFK Vyskov of the Czech National Football League through November 30, 2022. Minoungou, a speedy winger, has tallied U-20 caps for his native Cote d’Ivoire, while striker Gombe-Fei has international experience at both the U-20 and senior team level with the Central African Republic.
Defiance rounds out its roster with a trio of free agent signings in Lapsley, Sousa and Sabella. Lapsley, a Seattle native and second round pick by the New York Red Bulls in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, made over 40 appearances in goal for NYRB II and FC Tucson in 2020 and 2021, leading USL League One with 91 saves last season. Sousa, a defender, spent time with Hamburg II in Germany before playing for Sporting Kansas City II and Oakland Roots in 2021. Midfielder Sabella spent the 2019-2021 seasons with the Charlotte Independence, starting 17 of 55 appearances.
Of the 14 players currently signed to Defiance’s roster, five are Sounders FC Academy products. On top of the players announced today, select Sounders FC First Team and Academy players are expected to see time for Defiance this season via short and long-term loans.
Tacoma Defiance is currently in preseason training for its 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season, which kicks off against Real Monarchs on Saturday, March 27 at Starfire Stadium (12:00 p.m. PT / mlsnextpro.com).
CURRENT TACOMA DEFIANCE ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (1): Wallis Lapsley
DEFENDERS (7): Cody Baker, Joe Hafferty, Eric Kinzner, Achille Robin, Travian Sousa, Randy Mendoza, Hal Uderitz
MIDFIELDERS (5): Juan Alvarez, Sota Kitahara, Marlon Vargas, Georgi Minoungou, Valentin Sabella
FORWARDS (1): Alfred Gombe-Fei