The Tacoma Defiance are now nine games into the team’s inaugural season in MLS NEXT Pro, meaning there’s now enough of a sample size to do some early analysis on performance trends.
There have been some growing pains, as to be expected with a developmental side, but there’s also plenty of reason for encouragement about the future as the squad adapts to life in MLS NEXT Pro after previously competing in the USL Championship.
Here’s a look at the Defiance’s season so far by the numbers.
Minutes played by players under 20
Tacoma is the main platform for the club’s Academy products to get their first exposure to professional soccer, with this year’s roster chalk full of Homegrown Players who are looking to make their mark, as well as a couple young faces that have already broken through and gotten First Team action. In total, 3,186 MLS NEXT Pro minutes have been accumulated by players under 20 years old, with a couple becoming regular contributors during the side’s strong start to the season.
Midfielders Sota Kitahara and Eric Kinzer, both 19, have each played over 500 minutes, with 17-year-old Reed Baker-Whiting contributing just over 400 to that total. First Team midfielder Danny Leyva as pitched in with 394 minutes, while attacker Juan Alvarez, 17, has played 295 minutes.
Number of points through nine games
There’s still a long way to go in the season for the standings to truly take shape, but through nine matches, the Defiance find themselves in a playoff position with 17 points, good for third in the MLS NEXT Pro Western Conference. As it stands, Houston Dynamo 2 (22 points) and North Texas SC (21 points) are the only two sides in the West ahead of Tacoma’s pace. The club’s strong +9 differential provides some additional encouragement that it will prove sustainable going forward and isn’t just smoke and mirrors, though head coach Wade Webber would be the first to tell you it’s up to his team to show that’s the case.
Average points per game
Those 17 points leave Tacoma with an average points per game of 1.89, which is exactly the robust type of number you’d like to see over the course of an entire season to ensure playoff positioning. For context, Supporters’ Shield pace in MLS is typically around 2 points per game, meaning that should Tacoma hover around that number going forward they’ll virtually assure themselves of a postseason spot.
Goals scored by Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez
The breakout of AOC has been one of the biggest stories of the early season for Tacoma, as the 20-year-old forward has been banging in goals with abandon, with six in nine games. That has him as the MLS NEXT Golden Boot frontrunner, an impressive feat for the former Sounders Academy star, who first made his name on the national stage as the leading goal-scorer for the Seattle U-17 side that won the 2019 Generation adidas Cup title.
Total goals scored
Ocampo-Chavez’s gaudy numbers are just one component of what has been an all-around strong attack for Tacoma, which has racked up a league-leading 20 goals to this point in the season. It’s been an encouragingly versatile showing from the attacking unit, as eight players have combined to score the 14 other goals not scored by AOC. First Teamers Sam Adeniran, AB Cissoko and Dylan Teves, all of whom have been getting minutes with Tacoma to stay in rhythm, have contributed two goals apiece, the same number as winger Marlon Vargas.
Baker-Whiting, Kinzner, Kitahara, Achille Robin and Valentin Sabella have each netted once to round it all out.