MNUFC2 v Tacoma Defiance

Starfire Sports Complex | Tukwila, Washington

07.17.2022 | MLS NEXT Pro Game No. 15

9:00 p.m. CT | Streaming on www.mlsnextpro.com

After a two-game homestand for MNUFC2 that saw them pick up both a win and a loss, the Loons are headed back on the road. This time, they will be making the trek all the way to the West Coast to take on the Tacoma Defiance, as they attempt to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat at the National Sports Center against St Louis CITY2.

Tacoma presents quite the challenge for the Loons. Just two points off the top of MLS NEXT Pro’s top spot, the Defiance have proven to be a high-scoring, lethal outfit. 

“They’ve been one of the better teams in the entire league– the entire league, not just the Western Conference from the jump, not just the Western Conference,” said MNUFC2 Head Coach Cameron Knowles. “What have they scored 40, 41 goals? And ours is 10 goals behind and most are in the high 20s and their goal difference is off the charts. So, it’s not just that they’re scoring a lot of goals, it’s that they’re not conceding a lot either, and they’re really efficient.” 

The official count is indeed 41 goals for and only 17 against, giving Tacoma a positive goal differential of 24. The only other side in the league close to that mark is NYCFC II. In comparison, MNUFC2 currently has 26 goals for and 20 against, good enough for a plus 6 goal difference. 

When coming up against such a dangerous team, it is important to make some adjustments to the game plan. Coach Knowles shared some of the basics behind what his team will be doing to slow down their opponents. 

“If you can stop them from shooting, you can probably stop them from scoring,” he said. “It’s a collective effort to deny good chances. And that means keeping teams out of the box, it means denying them having sustained possession, possession in the front half. They’re a very good team in their pass completion rate in the opponent’s half, and we’ve got to disrupt that a little bit. We’ve got to get a lot tighter to guys and far more so than we were in this last game, making it difficult for teams to play and to find a rhythm, especially in the final third.” 

Sunday's matchup will mark the first meeting of these two teams, with MNUFC2 chasing the playoffs and Tacoma chasing the top of the league standings. As the Loons prepare to face a team near the top of the table, defender Jason Ramos says that the team is focused and ready. 

“It started Tuesday when we came back into training,” Ramos said. “Like I said, we came from a 2-1 loss, so the group knew right away that we had to get a good week of training and prepare for the big game on Sunday, not just because it’s Tacoma, a team on top of the table. That’s how we treat every game. We try to train hard every day of the week and focus on the game on Sunday.”

When the season ends, only eight teams will make the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, four from each conference. Though the Loons are currently sitting in 7th in the Western Conference, they are within touching distance of the playoff spots. With 10 games left to play in the regular season, Ramos knows what it will take for his team to make a run for a playoff spot. 

“It starts this weekend,” Ramos said. “We play one of the top teams. So, taking points from those top teams is always going to help us jump up the table. Getting these points at home also, we kind of let these points get away like it happened last weekend. Also try to get three points every game – one on the road, two if you can from PK shootout. That’s about it. Keep getting points and try not to give anything away here at home.”

As Ramos said, this game could be the start of MNUFC2’s playoff push. Tune in to the stream on www.mlsnextpro.com at 9:00 pm CT this Sunday, July 17 to see if the Loons can take down the league’s leading goal scorers.