Any ship built along the shores of Puget Sound must first test itself in those very waters. The tide swings and unpredictable winds are a perfect test for any sailor. They serve as a chance to sharpen skills and reap the rewards of an adventure met head on.
Tacoma Defiance are no different.
They practice where the Black and Green Rivers become the Duwamish. They play on this rise over Commencement Bay with the Puyallup River in the distance. The high hopes for the young team’s season also wait to be grasped beyond Tacoma’s borders. The 2020 story is theirs to write and all dreams are achievable at this stage of their journey.
Over the season there will be trials, labors, challenges, and successes. A defiant spirit will raise the team and city throughout 2020. The energy of Tacoma will fuel the future of these men that wear our crest. They seek new stars, new silverware, and reasons for Tacoma to be proud to call them theirs.
The 2020 journey starts with four-straight matches in the comfortable confines of home.
It is good for the young crew to re-familiarize themselves, set their tacks, and orient prior to their travelling adventures.
First up is Reno 1868 FC (Friday, March 6) out of the Great Basin in Nevada. They are a team forged in great pride for the silver city they travel from. They will cross two mountain ranges before their match at Cheney Stadium and bring that spirit and the strong roster that got them to second in the Western Conference in 2019.
They provide nothing short of a challenging start to the Defiance campaign, but it is impossible to cross the sea by standing and staring at the water.
The next visitor to make their trail to Tacoma is expansion side San Diego Loyal (Wednesday, March 11). The new team will work their way up the country’s side past the 39th parallel where George Vancouver first encountered the American coast. They will look to make an early splash in their own journey at Tacoma’s expense, and the test for Defiance will be preparing for an opponent with so little intel.
Two teams from the eastern bounds of the conference round out April – OKC Energy FC (Sunday, March 22) and El Paso Locomotive FC (Sunday, March 29). Their ties to Tacoma once existed solely by rail car. Locomotives have linked our deep shipping port to the United States since 1873 when the Northern Pacific Railway connected Tacoma to the Great Lakes.
The first journey away from home for Defiance starts with a trip down the Pacific Coast. While the warm sun of SoCal (Orange County SC, Saturday, April 4) has been known to tempt the resolve of the stoutest of pioneers, our men are on a mission. All distractions must be starved in the early parts of this Tacoma quest. Only focus can be fed.
The warm winds of April will be at the back of our squad as they depart to the southeast corner of the Western Conference in Texas Hill Country.
San Antonio FC (Saturday, April 11) recently made their first ever coaching change, and with his eye set on returning to former glory, manager Alen Marcina will use every ounce of his arsenal to correct courses to what worked for the side in a successful 2017.
The trip gets more difficult when Defiance head into the dense Wasatch Range.
Reigning Champions Real Monarch SLC (Friday, April 17) are giants who wait beyond the massive peaks of Mount Timpanogos. In 2017, the Real Salt Lake fully-owned affiliate claimed the regular season title, putting the league on watch. They did not waver and in 2019 they took home the ultimate prize: the USL Championship.
Like the Labors of Hercules, this trip to the snow-wrapped mountains will be a massive test for our South Sound soccer team, but no one grows when things are easy. The time is now for our young band of heroes to dwell in possibility.
Every road swing is a path of discovery. Every path home is a chance to recover and evaluate.
After a brief respite, Tacoma’s journey will then continue home to host the formidable bears of Sacramento Republic FC (Wednesday, April 29). Republic will traverse Siskiyou Pass heading up the valleys of Cascadia to renew hostilities. With the team from Northern California building toward a transition to MLS in 2022, the pressure will be on them to make the best of their penultimate season in the USL Championship.
With eyes set forward, it cannot be understated that the second match of the Defiance homestand will be perhaps the greatest challenge of all.
Phoenix Rising FC (Friday, May 8).
In 2019, Phoenix set records during the regular season and are on a mission to finish their business after falling in the playoffs. The Men in Black will look at the near-win on August 27, 2019 as an opportunity. All quests feature key meetings, chances to learn, and course corrections. The Friday night visit from Rising is just that. A win could be season defining.
Jaunting down Flood Valley between the Cascades and the Olympics, our band will make their way to Hillsboro, the new home of Portland Timbers 2 (Saturday, May 16). Exploring Cascadia by bus offers a different opportunity for young Defiance. The ride is one just long enough for a mind to wander the planes of imagined glory. It is an avenue that Sounders Academy players are familiar with. One that has culminated in them successfully dominating Portland throughout their soccer lives. The May 16 contest is the first of 2020 against our biggest rival.
Riding the Coast Starlight north, LA Galaxy II (Friday, May 22) return to Cheney Stadium for the third time in their tenure under the MLS side from California. Under the star streaked skies of a Friday night, Tacoma will seek to squelch their opponent marked with the moniker of “Los Dos”, sending them back to the gridlock of the City of Angels with little to show for it.
On the heels of the home showdown, Defiance will soon welcome another band of brash opponents in Austin Bold FC (Tuesday, May 26). Making the trek from the Lonestar State, it will be a long, tiring journey for the Bold. One that should aid the endeavor of Defiance in the middle of a stretch with six of eight matches in residence at 19th and Tyler in Central Tacoma.
It has been said that there is no place like home, and for a young team with hopes of an extended trip to the unexplored terrain of USL’s postseason, establishing dominance at Cheney Stadium will be imperative.
A visit to Tulsa FC (Saturday, May 30) is another match that rudely interjects itself in the home stand, with a Saturday night game after the Tuesday affair creating a short-rest situation for Tacoma’s forces. The drill here is to get in, get out – with all three points.
Over the seasons tempers have flared, elbows have been thrown, and a bitter match with pseudo rivals Las Vegas Lights FC (Friday, June 5) has become a thing to expect in Tacoma’s path. When Vegas and Tacoma’s trails cross, both teams bring their all. Things get heated between the sides, and in the last three meetings, six red cards were shown by referees seeking to control the chaos.
Also likely to see red are the Toros of Rio Grande Valley FC (Saturday, June 20). Crossing the Great Divide and a couple time zones could be rough for RGVFC, especially when Defiance wait for them having rested in their comfortable beds all week.
If all goes to plan, the weary opponent could be an ideal “steal three points and get out of town” match for Defiance. Remember, thieves pass as gentlemen when stealing has made them rich.
On the road again, Tacoma will then ride out to the Old Southwest. Their trail will swing them through El Paso (Saturday, June 27), New Mexico (Tuesday, June 30), and Oklahoma City (Saturday, July 11), where the men of Defiance must prepare for cowboys and cattle ranchers. These rough lands have tested the most persistent of people over the ages. It will be up to the travelling squad to determine victory under the blazing summer sun, our Tacoma boys will not falter.
The halfway mark of our 2020 campaign will not only serve as coordinates for where our journey is headed, but it also happens to fall on our Day of Defiance, an annual celebration where our troops return to the wooded hills of Central Tacoma to celebrate our city’s history and future.
The opponent is fittingly T2 (Friday, July 17), formerly of Portland, a rival to ceremonially pound on as we pay tribute to the great men and women who have blazed the trails of Tacoma, paving the way for our collective fight for greatness.
Caravanning through the desert – avoiding the salt flats and sandworms, our travelling band will then make haste from our own lush lands in pursuit of a rare oasis in the Mojave. In Vegas (Saturday, July 25), the combination of bright lights, city sins, and oppressive heat requires an unwavering eye on prize. The loneliest road will bring the group from Southern Nevada through the Spooner Summit to again face Sacramento Republic FC (Wednesday, July 29).
After two hard fought matches, our band in black return home for a short stay. The warm arms of Cheney Stadium and the Pacific Octopus will welcome Tacoma Defiance for just a single match.
The Black & Yellow of New Mexico United (Saturday, August 1) will surely aim to interrupt our brief respite on a midsummer’s night, and as the sun sets behind the west stands, our boys will fight to ensure that when the final whistle blows, they are linked hand in hand saluting the supporters behind Cheney Stadium’s south goal.
Raising a sextant to the night sky, the stars will serve as a Defiantly Tacoma compass guiding the team down the coast to LA Galaxy II (Saturday, August 8). With the wind at their backs, the team will then make their way back through the Pacific. These are familiar journeys for any port city, but especially for those from the shores of Tacoma.
A winding road leads home to the shadow of Mt. Rainier, where Defiance will then host Colorado Switchbacks FC (Saturday, August 15) on a idyllic night in August. Ready for the climb and knowing their opponent lays claim to the title of Olympic City, Defiance will not waver. After all, our city was the home of the first gold medalist in alpine sports. Win or lose, the journey will continue.
Every adventure has a toughest stretch. From the moment of planning, knowledge of the challenge is clear. Far from home and without comfort, the resolve of Defiance will help them succeed, even in struggle. Like the crew of Foss’ mighty tugs, the unity of the team will be its strength.
A stretch of five road matches starts at the end of August and extends to mid-September. The opponents are a mix of quality, with nothing easy. Bold (Saturday, August 22), Rising (Friday, August 28), 1868 (Saturday, September 5), Loyal (Sunday, September 13), and Switchbacks (Saturday, September 19) will force Defiance to tighten the rigging and sharpen their blades. This stretch is not the end, but the climax of a journey with the end in sight.
After a long absence, Tacoma’s return home will be sweet, while the spurs of San Antonio (Wednesday, September 23) will take to saddle for their longest cattle-drive of the year hoping to spoil the reception. Tacoma will welcome the weary travelers as Defiance settles into a two-match week.
Home is where our heart is.
Welcomed by the kiss of PNW sunshine, visiting Orange County SC (Sunday, September 27) may think they are coming up on a pleasure cruise. Whether they come in through Corinthian or Day Island, they will be in for no treat. They will see Tacoma at its best and the stories they tell of the visit will be of the black and green holding their own.
October brings a long distance cruise to the opposite ocean and a short overland ride. Edinburg is the home of Rio Grande Valley FC (Saturday, October 3), the chosen team of Southern Texas. This final expedition is the longest trip our road warriors will take in 2020. This longest and last away day is after 16 road matches and 15 home matches.
It will be almost the beginning of the end, for all good things must come to an end.
As they begin, so will Tacoma Defiance finish – at home. With warm fires burning and flags waving, the assured odyssey will be over. FC Tulsa (Saturday, October 10) flies in for the penultimate match of the 2020 season, and then royalty visits. Real Monarchs (Saturday, October 17) follow the path established by other teams to our fort on the near cliff of the Whulge. When that grand test with the reigning champions is complete, it will then be time to recount stories of success and defeats. When it is time to cast the stones, the stories written along the way will determine what comes next.
Perhaps, a first ever trip to the postseason for our South Sound soccer side. Our band of brothers adorned in the Black Ink, Rainier White, and Kraken Green of Tacoma Defiance.