Sunday’s Seattle Sounders MLS Cup victory still echoes through the air of Puget Sound. From the ringing ears of 69,274 voices singing in unison to the parade clamoring through downtown Seattle the roar of triump is a reminder of the unifying nature of sports.
That 2019 MLS Cup was built throughout Puget Sound. The offices of Pioneer Square, the training fields at Starfire Sports, and our pitch here in Tacoma helped the Sounders lift the Cup. The development program fuels a roster built from local youth stars and international talents. Many of them took their first professional steps through the team that is Defiance.
- Cristian Roldan – Back in 2015 when Sounders FC launched their USL Championship project, Cristian Roldan was a first round pick out of the University of Washington. He played 28 minutes in S2’s first ever match. Since then Cristian has won two MLS Cups and is now a regular on the USMNT roster.
- Jordan Morris – In 2013 the Sounders Reserves played at Cheney Stadium. Jordan Morris was just an Academy player at the time, coming on as a reserve in that match. Morris built on that future winning the MAC Hermann Trophy while at Stanford, the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year, a Gold Cup, and two MLS Cups.
- Román Torres – On April 1 the Sounders sent a First Team squad to Cheney Stadium and beat Sacramento Republic 2-1. Ten of the starters were on MLS contracts, with Danny Leyva being the sole Defiance player in the lineup. Torres captained the side that evening in Tacoma. On Sunday he added to his Sounders legacy with another trophy.
- Jordy Delem – The Martinique star won his first MLS Cup on November 10, appearing as a late shutdown substitute in Seattle’s 3-1 victory. His Sounders tale starts when he signed with S2 in 2016. Delem was the second player to ever earn a First Team contract after performing with S2/Defiance.
- Nouhou – Nouhou was the first USL player signed to a First Team deal after showing his promise with the S2/Defiance project. The crowd favorite took the fields at Starfire and Cheney Stadium to prove that the future can also be the now, as the 22-year-old helped the Sounders lift MLS Cup with 36 minutes played in the playoffs.
- Shipp, Bwana, Wingo, Bruin, A.Roldan, Abdu-Salaam, Campbell and Muse – All were part of the 2-1 Defiance victory over Sacramento Republic. While Shipp was the only one in the 18 for MLS Cup, the other seven all contributed to a season that took second in the Western Conference and earned a Concacaf Champions League spot before winning MLS Cup.
- Danny Leyva – After just 277 minutes with Tacoma Defiance, the Sounders signed Leyva to a First Team deal. Not only was he the youngest MLS signing by the Sounders, he rose from Academy to Defiance to Sounders faster than any player.
- Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – A month after Leyva signed, Ocampo-Chavez dominated the GA Cup winning the Golden Boot as the Sounders Academy took the first ever MLS trophy at the prestigious tournament. He showed promise early in the season. When he started scoring with Defiance he didn’t stop. Alfonso ended the season with Tacoma scoring four goals in his final six matches.
- Justin Dhillon – The greatest goal scorer in Defiance/S2 history earned his Sounders call by scoring the fastest goal in USL history, scoring in five straight matches, and filling a needed role with the big club.
Many of the men wearing 2019 championship rings built their future through the S2/Defiance project.
Dozens more are climbing the ladder as well. On the pitch in Central Tacoma, Shandon Hopeau, Sam Rogers, Josh Atencio, and others are looking to prove that they’ve got next. Sunday’s massive flood of support for soccer in the region is not the endpoint for the organization. It’s a continuation from ’74 to the present with great stories still to be told.
The future is written in black ink on the bright green grass at Cheney Stadium.