TACOMA, WASH. – MLS NEXT Pro today announced its 2023 Best XI, the annual list recognizing the league’s top players at each position, with Tacoma Defiance’s Abdoulaye Cissoko voted to one of the three defender spots. All awards were voted on by the Head Coaches and Chief Soccer Officers of MLS NEXT Pro clubs, as well as league broadcasters and content teams. After winning the Pacific Division and finishing second in the Western Conference, Defiance begins its postseason campaign at home against Houston Dynamo 2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday, October 1 at Starfire Stadium (7:00 p.m. PT / Apple TV).
“We as a club hold Abdoulaye in such a high regard, it’s always an incredible feeling when talent is noticed outside of the club,” said Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner. “We are so delighted for this accomplishment, and credit goes to the development side all the way through the First Team for helping guide AB as a young professional. We have a saying here that ‘When your best players are also your best people then you have something special,’ and we feel AB embodies this sentiment.”
Nicknamed “AB,” Cissoko tallied 22 interceptions for Defiance this year and won 62.3 percent of his duels, good for the highest rate on the team. The French international also ranked fourth on the team with five goals in MLSNP action. After joining the Sounders FC organization in 2019, he played the 2020 campaign with Tacoma before signing a First Team contract in 2021. Since signing with the First Team, the 23-year-old has remained a staple of Defiance’s backline, making 45 appearances (39 starts) for Tacoma in that span.
“We are so excited for Abdoulaye to be named to the MLSNP Best XI this season,” said Tacoma Defiance Head Coach Wade Webber. “He is one of the leaders of Defiance on and off the field and his teammates often look to him in stressful moments to provide the degree of maturity and calm a situation demands. He’s also shown himself to possess an uncommonly strong goalscoring threat for a player of his position. We have a group of young and talented central defenders in our organization and for one of them to be recognized in this manner is not only a personal honor for AB, but also a sign that the collective keeps pushing each other to be better every day.”
Tacoma Defiance (14-5-9, 57 points) prepares to host Houston Dynamo 2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday, October 1 at Starfire Stadium (7:00 p.m. PT / Apple TV). **Due to MLS NEXT Pro’s new playoff format**, Tacoma – having secured the second overall seed in the Western Conference – was given the chance to select its opponent and selected Houston, the seventh overall seed. **Tickets for Sunday’s match are on sale now**, with the match being streamed on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Defiance won both regular-season matchups with Houston this season, a 2-1 road win on April 23 and a 1-0 home result on July 2. The two sides also met in last year’s Western Conference Semifinals, which Tacoma won via penalty kicks after 120 minutes of action.
2023 MLS NEXT PRO BEST XI
Goalkeeper (1): Damian Las (Austin FC II)
Defenders (3): Abdoulaye Cissoko (Tacoma Defiance), Joe Hafferty (Austin FC II), João Pedro (Crown Legacy FC)
Midfielders (4): Nick Firmino (Atlanta United 2), Yosuke Hanya (Colorado Rapids 2), Ibrahim Kasule (New York Red Bulls II), Oliver Larraz (Colorado Rapids 2)
Forwards (3): Rémi Cabral (Colorado Rapids 2), Jack Lynn (Orlando City B), MD Myers (NYCFC II)