Tacoma Defiance adds another familiar face to its roster after signing Sounders Academy standout Antonio Herrera ahead of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.
“In an ideal world, a player will join our Academy at whatever age, and they will perform at a level that indicates that they need the next challenge, and I think we can safely say that Antonio has done that,” said Head Coach Wade Webber.
The Washington native began his journey with the Seattle Sounders organization at an early age after joining the Sounders Discovery Program from local club Washington Premier FC in 2017. From there, he worked his way up through the pathway to the Academy level and now, to his first professional contract with Defiance.
Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner remembers Herrera as a player who fit the mold of the Sounders organization during his initial recruitment to the club.
“He was just a good little player, technical, very smart, and embodied a lot of the positional profile characteristics that we look for in those younger players,” said Brauner. “He's one of those guys that at a very young age, showed promise and potential.”
Herrera’s time with the Sounder’s Academy has been a successful one, previously leading his team to victory in the U-17 2022 Generation Adidas Cup. The 18-year-old started in all eight matches throughout the tournament, while recording a goal against Charlotte FC. He featured in 12 Academy games total last season, while accompanying Defiance as a bench player in a single match-up against Real Monarchs.
Uncertainties linger surrounding a young player transitioning from Academy to a more challenging environment like Tacoma Defiance, but Webber confirms through Herrera’s recent preseason practices with the First Team, the attacking midfielder has proven his ability to go up against higher competition.
“He's shown well with the First Team and actually stood out,” Webber said. “[Brian] Schmetzer made comments about [Herrera] in his early press conferences this season, so, I think that all bodes well for him.”
Herrera’s high-level experiences go beyond practicing with the First Team, earning call-ups to both Mexico and the United States youth national teams through his dual citizenship. The midfielder most recently represented Mexico’s U-18 squad for a three-game tour in the Czech Republic back in September.
While Herrera has spent his career categorized as a more attacking-minded player, his defensive efforts on the pitch have given him that extra step toward a professional contract with Defiance and a favorable future in the sport.
“Antonio is not only a very good player in terms of his production with the ball through goals and assists, he’s also started to do a lot of the stuff that doesn't necessarily show up on a stat sheet, like the defensive work, the pressing…He does everything to help the team and sacrifice for the group off the ball,” said Brauner. “He's always been a very creative player, but now, he's adding that industrious, toughness to his game, and it's something that if he can master both sides of it, he's going to have a real chance.”