Match Recap

RECAP: Tacoma Defiance fall to St. Louis CITY2 in Western Conference Final

Photo Oct 02 2022, 8 28 10 PM

Tacoma Defiance saw their inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign come to an end, falling 2-1 to St. Louis CITY2 in the Western Conference Final between the sides at Ralph Korte Stadium on Sunday.

AB Cissoko found the scoresheet on a second-half penalty kick for Defiance’s goal, while Tomáš Ostrák and Josh Dolling scored a goal apiece to pace the home side.

St. Louis CITY2 struck first just past the half-hour mark off a highlight-reel goal from Ostrák. The Czech Republic youth international collected the ball just outside the top of the area, uncorking a perfectly placed distance strike past Tacoma goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley.

Tacoma came agonizingly close to an equalizer just six minutes later, when Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez slid behind the St. Louis back line and squeezed off a shot from a difficult angle on the left side. The shot made it past goalkeeper Michael Creek but glanced off the far post.

Ocampo-Chavez had another golden look in the 41st minute, hitting a laser shot from close-range that Creek denied with a reaction save before also stuffing the rebound.

Those sequences proved critical, as St. Louis CITY2 doubled their lead just before the hour-mark. Dolling landed the decisive blow, nodding a cross from the right side into the net.

Tacoma would fight back, though, pulling one back from the spot after Travian Sousa drew a foul in the St. Louis area, the second straight week the left back has drawn a crucial penalty kick. That allowed Cissoko to drill the ensuing penalty to halve the deficit and set up a frantic finish.

An equalizer never quite arrived though, sending St. Louis CITY2 to the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro Cup and bringing Tacoma’s 2022 campaign to an end.

Three takeaways

Invaluable experience

For a developmental side such as Defiance, these types of matches are a vital experience for young players to get meaningful minutes in high-stakes moments. Tacoma’s group got a great taste of that this year, getting a dramatic penalty-kick shootout win over Houston Dynamo 2 in their first playoff match last weekend, before trying their luck on the road against a potent St. Louis CITY2 side. It may not have been the result they wanted, but the taste of playoff soccer will serve this group well in the long run.

Oh, so close…

That said, only a matter of inches separated Tacoma from taking a result in this game. Ocampo-Chavez’s trio of looks near the end of the first half were simply unlucky to not have found the net, and could have changed the entire trajectory of the match if they had. Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way. Even after conceding the eventual game winner in the second half, the Defiance carved out a host of chances in the final 15 minutes as they pushed for an equalizer.

Successful first campaign

No one knew exactly what to expect when Tacoma made the switch to MLS NEXT Pro from the USL Championship, but with their first season in the books, it was an encouraging start to life in the league under head coach Wade Webber, who guided the team to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and a playoff victory. Looking to the future, it’s a great building block in establishing a winning culture for the team.