They come by sea, by foot, and train to Tacoma City, New Tacoma – a unified Tacoma for 135 years. They are building a future along the near cliff of Defiance staking a claim in the shadows of the great mountain, surrounded by allies. They are fortress and tree, vale and sea. They are one of us; growing and willing to fight to be better. Not merely interlopers, they are part of you, part of us, part of Tacoma.
If you don’t know Tacoma Defiance’s players, think about them as you do the places around you. Your Defiance are the embodiment of those icons. Here we take a tour through Tacoma visualized as the players on the team; pairing them with the places and things that have forged the defiant spirit that defines who we are and what we’re about.
Trey Muse – Giant Pacific Octopus
First, he’s a goalkeeper which means he gets to use his hands and arms to stop all attacks. The Giant Pacific Octopus said to call the depths under Tacoma’s Narrows Bridge home has eight arms and is huge. Muse is also very tall. But this analogy goes beyond just the shared physical traits. Muse is a keeper. They carry a certain reputation, and some celebrate their stops a bit more than others. In many ways goalkeepers are the lefty pitchers of soccer. They have alien brains that mere mortals can’t comprehend. Maybe like the octopus, Muse doesn’t belong. He’s a Sounder, likely regularly on loan to Defiance, much like some alien force must have loaned octopuses to the Earth.
Muse is a keeper ready for pro play now. His college seasons were legendary. The Giant Pacific Octopus is Tacoma’s kraken. Like that legendary kraken, Muse serves as Tacoma’s last line of defense.
Nick Hinds – The Red Hot
Whether with the Sounders Academy or the University of Akron, Nick Hinds was more than just a left back. His speed and flair with the ball at his feet are advanced for a 21-year-old left back.
Like Tacoma’s Red Hot, he is re-inventing perception of a common thing. Tucked into a dark hall on 6th Ave you’ll find hot dogs, but not your average fare slathered in ketchup and mustard on a soft steamed bun. There you’ll find Sriracha to bring fire, bacon to bring the sizzle, and peanut butter to make you think.
Hinds makes you think that there can be more to the left back than just defense and some touchline crosses. There was enough sizzle and fire in his game the he frequently played the winger position in 2018. We encourage you to experience the sensation that is double-fisting a Hound Dog and one of Red Hot’s craft IPA’s. In this and many of the other pairings to be experienced there, you’ll discover that a hot dog isn’t only a hot dog, like a left back is more than just a left back.
There’s a new centerback pairing at Cheney Stadium this year. Often captain and likely United States U-20 World Cup participant Sam Rogers is back. Yes, he’s still that young while in his third pro season. In defense and stature, he is the oldest fort in Pierce County. At Fort Nisqually and its living history museum you can study how the eldest American settlers set up their defenses. Rogers leads the Tacoma Defiance defense as well. The former defensive midfielder adapted to a new position all while becoming one of the vocal leaders of the team, wearing the armband several times. If everything goes right for him, he will wear the Red, White, & Blue on the world’s stage, while he wears the black, white, and Rave Green off the shores of Commencement Bay.
His partner is new and also a giant in his own right. At 6’4”, Modou Ndow towers over Rogers and Muse. Where Fort Nisqually reminds us of a different time and way of life altogether, Fort Lewis is modern and new. It isn’t a Camp as it started, or even the Fort it used to be. It sprawls to Tacoma’s south peopled from around the globe by those who see opportunity and love for our nation. Ndow is seizing an opportunity in Tacoma. Ndow is a player whose potential could take him around the globe throughout his career. It could just be that he falls in love with Tacoma and this becomes his new home, as thousands of Fort Lewis’ temporary residents do.
Denso Ulysse – McChord Air Force Base
At right back, Denso Ulysse carries an unusual load. In 2018 he was the creative force on the squad using his speed to break through defenses and inserting himself into tight spaces. His speed is already levels above what is usually on display in the USL Championship.
McChord, now part of JBLM, hosts two airlift wings taking units and other resources around the world. Their deliveries are speedy and accurate, bypassing space controlled by others. Ulysse does this as well as anyone his age, as he is exceptionally nimble and fleet of foot.
Jesse Daley – 7 Seas Brewing
One of two Australians on the squad, Jesse Daley traveled the oceans to be here. He is rough. Fierce. Daley is a fighter who would seem as comfortable swinging like a swashbuckler through the riggings of a pirate ship. His origins may be elsewhere, but he’s Tacoma now. He is bold, yet balanced.
Daley also happens to be brewed with some genuine British golden promise, approachable and versatile. When the slight central midfielder needs to be robust, he is. When he needs to add some tropical flare, that happens. His ability may have developed elsewhere, but now he is Tacoma.
Ben Numbi – Foss Waterway
Thea Foss was a wonder. She helped Tacoma become the proud city it is today: a major shipping port with a global impact. Because of Foss, Tacoma accepts goods that bypass ports like Seattle, Vancouver and Prince Rupert. They come to Tacoma because the path to elsewhere is convenient, known, and available.
Numbi comes to Defiance from the Democratic Republic of Congo via Czech team MFK Vyskov. At 18 years old, he is already a global traveler. He is the stevedore, the ball carrier who hauls the flow of a match like a longshoreman unpacking cargo. His duty is to connect the defensive band to the attacking band, just as Foss connects Tacoma to the world.
Josh Atencio – Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The transition from defense to attack is a foundation of the modern game. It requires defensive midfielders who are anchors on defense and can rapidly transition the ball from deep in their end towards the skill players in the attacking third. Atencio can do this via the long ball or through runs forward. His future may be along the backline, but his roots are deeply tied to the midfield.
He is the connector between groups who support each other, intertwined and dependent. The Narrows Bridge makes certain the Pierce County’s exclave out on the peninsula is connected to Tacoma. It is sturdy, stable, flexible, and a proud construction of Washington. Its towers reach down into the deep waters much like the Sounders Academy extends its reach into the Sound of Soccer.
Danny Robles – East 21st Bridge
Like weaving through objects in heavy traffic, Robles can make tight turns, stop, and quickly reach full speed. His connections tend to be compact and sometimes bewildering. Robles is another one of the Sounders U-17 champions. Of all the defensive midfielders, he is slight. His technical ability, though, is among the best, taking after Sounders players like Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan.
Most captures of Tacoma from the water include the East 21st Street Bridge. It cuts through and over surface street traffic connecting neighborhoods from Point Defiance through downtown to I-5. It’s massive cable stays evoke the sails of Tacoma’s nautical past. To the native driver, its on-and-off ramps make sense. Those same ramps are known for confusing visitors, forcing them to slow as they attempt to find their way.
Danny Leyva – Union Station
Towering over Tacoma’s museum district is the historic anchor of downtown. The former train station, now courthouse and rental facility, stands out in the middle of Tacoma’s skyline. Danny Leyva will stand above several of his teammates, and most of the midfielders in the league. He’s already 5’10” and turns 16 in May.
Leyva is also known for being an anchoring presence in the midfield. His defense is solid but shows room for growth as he learns to utilize his frame. His skill in transition and the attack shows spark from his time as an attacking midfielder. As one of the youngest on the squad, he is being built brick by brick into a modern vision for a defensive midfielder, just as Union Station became a symbol of a modern Tacoma back in the early 1900’s.
Antonee Burke-Gilroy – Engine House 9
Some players are connectors. They are rare drivers that grind defensively while showing a knack for starting attacks as well. They are hard to categorize. Valiantly, they start as one thing and develop. Like Engine House 9, Burke-Gilroy offers a variety of profiles.
He can sour an attack or spark the offense. He is the engine, a regular meter that keeps the pace of a match. One of the oldest players on the squad, as E9 is the oldest active brewery in Tacoma, Antonee is capable of winning awards. Those in the know look for his name in any contest.
Shandon Hopeau – Lincoln High School
Coming to the Sounders by way of Hawaii, Shandon Hopeau quickly established himself as one of the more talented players in his age group. A classic winger who will dive in towards goal at times, Hopeau scored three goals in his two seasons as a pro, adding on two assists. More impressive is that the youngster has already taken the captain’s armband. He is a leader who, along with Rogers, will guide the team through their journey from youth to adulthood, from amateur prospects to professionals.
Lincoln High develops leaders. Down in south Tacoma, the school named after the Great Emancipator carries a reputation and successful history of producing not just athletes and scholars, but greatness. From Frank Herbert to Terry Bergeson; from Roberta Byrd Barr to Pappy Boyington; Lincoln is home to history and leaders within their field. The younger prospects may get more hype, but in Hopeau the Defiance find a leader who will punch above his weight.
Marlon Vargas – America’s Car Museum
When you walk into America’s Car Museum you see luxury, fine-details, and cleanliness. This may be the quickest way to describe Vargas’ game. He is an on-ball maestro, beautiful in his ability to slip through heavy traffic with the eyes of all immediately going towards Marlon himself.
Prior to signing with Tacoma Defiance, the youngster scored 19 goals with 26 assists in all competitions in 2018. Like the famed museum, he collects moments of greatness. Marlon is powering his future by studying the greats and tuning up his engine for further rallies at Cheney Stadium.
Azriel Gonzalez – Museum of Glass
There’s a sparkle in the way Azriel plays. The youngster is slight but sturdy. The fire that burns in the Chula Vista, California native is obvious, and his skills with the ball are among the best on the Defiance squad.
Now 17, he enters his third professional year. He is a visiting artist using the furnaces here in Tacoma, building something that can shine on grander stages.
The Museum of Glass combines arts from around the world. There are baubles, vases, statues, and so much more. They combine cultures and techniques, all within the core of Tacoma. Little grits of sand and ash become more than thought imaginable as they develop into fine art for the world to admire.
Ray Serrano – Washington State History Museum
Serrano came to the Sounders Academy via Moses Lake. He’s made his home throughout the state of Washington, making a living in the east, the central Sound and the South Sound. Tacoma’s Washington State History Museum is also a connecting path to the state at large.
Serrano offers on-ball technique and a grounded nature that belies his age. He is a hard worker who will strive for success. If it all works out as anticipated, Tacoma will be a stopping point on a long and fruitful soccer journey. One much like the journey our state’s apples take from dry side to port, as outlined at the museum.
Alec Diaz, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – 10 things USL defenders hate about them
The movie 10 Things I Hate About You was set in Seattle but filmed in Tacoma. It showed the world the beauty of Stadium High School. Tacoma Defiance’s two high school forwards are ready to show they are scoring threats that Pierce County should love, while being hated by the rest of USL Championship. Here’s how we broke it down:
- Diaz scores about a goal a game.
- Ocampo-Chavez willingly chases every ball, even against much larger defenders.
- Diaz is the modern pressing forward, who will not let a centerback relax on the ball.
- Ocampo-Chavez is a U.S. U-17 possibly heading to the World Cup in Peru.
- Diaz is a U.S. U-18.
- Ocampo-Chavez helped the Sounders Academy win the U-17 national title.
- Diaz helped the Sounders Academy win the U-17 national title.
- Ocampo-Chavez sees every angle as a scoring opportunity, every rival as a target to fall.
- Diaz sees every loose ball as a scoring opportunity.
- They’re literally just getting started.
Chris Little –University of Washington – Tacoma
Just a few years ago, Chris Little was head coach at small Elon College. In his first year as Tacoma Defiance head coach you can still see the influence of the university life in his approach to soccer. He is the intellectual, well-read, eloquent professor bathed in soccer theory. In his role as Director of Coaching with Sounders Academy he developed dozens of now professionals.
Wade Webber – Bates Technical College
Wade Webber, Federal Way native and former MLS centerback is hard metal and rock & roll. He believes in toughness, determination and applied techniques. His focus is on defense, where the theory is equally as important as getting it done. Webber is equally comfortable reading theory as he is with the grind of practical education.
Josh Ford – Sam and Terry’s Barbershop
Josh Ford has been there and definitely done that. He’s plied his trade in MLS, the NASL, and the USL. When he talks about what it takes to be a pro, his stories are from direct personal experience. He’s an elder statesman who has been around the leagues of American soccer.
These Defiance are totally Tacoma. A collection of Washingtonians and visitors who are building into something more than a development side, but a community that is a defiant collection of individuals becoming a team. Tacoma is a city on the rise. Tucked in a region on the doorstep of its potential, climbing to the apex of greatness, it is a place made significant by its iconic places and faces. Now it is the team’s turn to write their chapter in a story being written by a city with its own carved out identity and history.