Tacoma Defiance

Tacoma Defiance kicks off 2024 season with difficult test in Austin

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Tacoma Defiance heads into its first match of the season on Friday night as the team takes on the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro champs Austin FC II (6 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV) at Parmer Field.

“We're very excited about the fact that our first opponent is the champions because it's a good test to see exactly where the team is,” said Defiance Head Coach Hervé Diese. “We've progressed extremely well through the preseason.”

The last time the two teams went head-to-head was in the semifinals of the 2023 playoffs, where Defiance fell 1-0 at home. Now, they face Austin FC II once again in what will be a competitive matchup between two of the consistently top sides in MLS NEXT Pro.

“We've forgotten about that game,” said Diese. “We want to dominate the [upcoming] game as we want to do in this season. So without really looking at what the past provided, but more so what the future holds.”

The Tacoma side finished 2023 as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference with a 20-0-8 record and 60 points while Austin closed out the regular season in fourth place with 48 points and a 16-0-12 campaign.

Friday is anticipated to be a back-and-forth battle similar to the two previous meetings, but it will be a slightly different lineup of players with the changes made during the offseason.

Defiance heads into their 2024 campaign with a mix of old and fresh faces on the roster. With the success shown last season and the addition of new players bolstering the depth of the team, Tacoma is expected to come out in dominant form.

“It's a combination of the core of Seattle with the new energy in Seattle,” said Diese.

He continued, “We have a new striker named Yu \[Tsukanome\] who will do extremely well as he’s been doing in preseason. Owen O'Malley is another one that's doing well along with Kalani \[Kossa-Rienzi\] and club captain Faysal \[Bettache\]. And then obviously, the old guns like Frank Daroma and Georgie \[Minoungou\] as well.”

Diese described this year’s preseason as “one of the best [he’s] had,” but Friday will be a large indicator on if it will be applied to a real-match setting.

The first-year head coach is confident the team will be able to do exactly that.

“We have good sets of principles and a good game model that Seattle has used from the First Team all the way to the academy that will give us space and the capacity to be as good as we can be,” said Diese. “With the fluidity and the intelligence of the individual quality that we have, we know that the team will gel well and get the result that we want.”