This weekend, Tacoma Defiance will kick off their 2023 MLS NEXT Pro campaign on the road in a rematch of the 2022 Western Conference Final against St. Louis CITY2 (3:00 p.m. PT | MLS Season Pass on Apple TV) on Saturday.
It’s a relatively new-look squad for the Defiance season, with eight returners from last year’s team as well as 10 new additions. With so many exciting acquisitions, each match will be an opportunity for supporters to watch a winning team and get a glimpse of future First Team players.
“We know that if we’re not developing talent for the First Team, it doesn’t matter if we win,” said Head Coach Wade Webber. “So, that’s our focus this year more than anything else. Who’s the next Nouhou, Jackson Ragen, Obed Vargas, or Danny Leyva? Eight current First Team players started their careers with our second team and want that trend to continue.”
The Defiance will be without the services of Marlon Vargas and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez this year, who departed for the Colorado Rapids and Austin FC organizations respectively. The pair combined for 21 goals last season, but the coaching staff is particularly excited about the players they’ve retained, as well as some of the additions to the squad.
“We’ve done a really good job recruiting,” said Webber. “We’ve brought in talented players, but we also have a good core of returning players as well. The guys who helped us get as far as we did last year, we have a lot of them back.”
While the main objective of the Defiance is to produce players that can compete for the Sounders in MLS, there is still a heavy emphasis placed on getting results and playing attractive soccer. For players to be able to meet the standards of excellence the Sounders have maintained since 2009, they must be ingrained in a culture of winning and overcoming adversity.
“I think the expectation here, first and foremost, is that winning is important and that winning matters,” said goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley. “That’s been super exciting for me to be a part of… It’s cool to be part of a club where that value is present in the Academy, the Defiance, and the First Team.”
Last season, the Defiance finished second in the Western Conference standings, missing out on first on goal difference, and third overall in the league. They posted a 9-2-1 record at home and consistently played some of the best attacking soccer in all of MLS NEXT Pro.
According to winger Georgi Minoungou, the squad is eager to exceed the standards they set in 2022 and put on a show for supporters.
“The message I have to the fans is to continue to be with us,” said Minoungou. “We want to push every time and get better. We want them to be with us in all the battles, and we think this season will be greater than last season.”