When Tacoma Defiance kick off their third season in MLS NEXT Pro in 2024, a pair of new additions will be looking to make their name.
The club announced this week the signings of Academy midfielder Snyder Brunnell and Japanese forward Yu Tsukanome – prospects that Director of Development Wade Webber said are expected to compete for starting roles next season.
In Brunell’s case, a standout career for the Sounders Academy and a successful first run with Tacoma in 2023 set the stage for this week’s signing.
The 16-year-old logged almost 1,000 minutes last year while playing as an amateur (the most minutes the club has ever given to an amateur player), demonstrating a versatile skill-set that Webber hopes will put him on a similar path to MLS as fellow Homegrown midfielders Josh Atencio, Obed Vargas and Sota Kitahara.
“He took his opportunity and demonstrated that he has the sort of versatile skill-set and technical capacity to be a successful pro midfielder,” said Webber of Brunell.
“The things he has to work on are all achievable. They tend to come with experience, having more influence in games, being more of someone that's involved in the scoring of goals, creation of goals.…He's demonstrated himself at the Academy level to certainly be deserving.”
The jump from Academy to professional soccer is seldom linear, as players have to contend with the adjustment to the increased physicality and speed of the game compared to youth soccer.
In that area, Webber said Brunell excelled in his initial foray into the MLS NEXT Pro level.
“Snyder did really well against adults, you know, against full pros,” said Webber. “And that speaks volumes to how close he is to being a consistent performer.
As for Tsukanome, the 21-year-old arrives on the heels of a breakout season with Dakota Fusion FC of the National Premier Soccer League that saw him score 16 goals in 10 games, winning the league’s Golden Boot among numerous additional individual accolades.
While he plays a much different role than Brunell, Webber also highlighted Tsukanome’s versatility and willingness to defend as some of his biggest assets.
While his natural position is a pure striker, he’s also capable of playing anywhere in the attacking midfield, where he’s shown an aptitude for combining with teammates.
“He's got a good technical capacity and is a very hard worker and as an attacking player we think some of those are absolutely essential traits,” said Webber. “You have to defend well, if you're in the second team, to have a chance to make it into the first team."
“...He's good with both feet, has good instincts in the box. We’re always looking for players who we think have something that separates them a little bit. And, you know, he's flying under the radar a little.”
For both players, Webber said he sees potential that could put them on the radar of the Seattle Sounders’ first team down the line with further development.
In the meantime, they’ll be tasked with helping Defiance build on last year’s campaign that saw the club finish in the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference (14W-5L-5D record, 57 points).
“Just as we did with Braudilio Rodrigues last year, we think that there’s something there that our first team might be interested in,” said Webber.
“I think both of them certainly, we expect them to compete for starting spots in our lineup and help the team maintain what has been a really good two years so far in MLS Next Pro,” he added.