Tacoma Defiance closed out their season last Sunday after a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Austin FC II in the Western Conference Semifinals.
While the result was not how Defiance wanted to finish out the year, the overall success that led them to that playoff match is something worth recognizing.
“I think it was a really good year and I'm excited to see what the future holds,” said Head Coach Wade Webber. “We have a lot of potential for even more success in the future.”
It was a slow start for the Tacoma squad, but the way the team came together as the season progressed proved how capable they were in becoming top contenders of the league.
“If you look at the performances from the start of the season compared to where we were towards the final stages, we look like a completely different group,” said Assistant Coach Michael Morris. “As a staff, we were really satisfied with the progress that the entire group made over the course of the season in terms of our identity in the way that we want to play.”
Defiance came out of regular season play in the No.2 spot of the Western Conference, earning the ability to choose their quarterfinal opponent and home field advantage for the first and second round of playoffs.
To reach such heights in the competitive league of MLS NEXT Pro is an achievement in itself, but the growth and development displayed throughout the year is something that’ll benefit the players long-term.
"There's just a lot of stuff that we go into a year we've been targeting like winning as many games as we can, but we also want to develop players, so the year was successful [in that area],” said Webber. “There was a lot of progress made within the season.”
Individual standouts like Braudilio Rodrigues — who finished the year with 17 goals and 4 assists — were vital assets to the team’s victories throughout the season.
But it was ultimately an overall group effort that led the Defiance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
“Individuals are always propped up by the collective of the group,” said Morris. “I can't understate the quality of the group in terms of how they approach training every single day and the collective response that we got from everybody regardless if they've been in a frequent starting position, or maybe more of a reserve and so I think the whole collective allowed a lot of individuals to succeed.”
The turnover rate for the second team has been consistent for the past two years, but with the majority of the 2023 roster coming back next season, Morris is confident the team can pick up where they left off and showcase the same positive outcomes in 2024.
“We made a good statement this year and we're gonna come back even [better] next year and hopefully the whole league is ready for what we're prepared to bring.”