The Game of the Week for Week 16 of MLS NEXT Pro action is a clash between Western Conference foes Tacoma Defiance and Timbers2 at Hillsboro Stadium in Hillsboro, Oregon on Sunday. The action is set to kick off at 10 p.m. ET.

Following losses in the previous match for both teams, Tacoma and Timbers2 are in need of a win, but for different reasons. Three points will help Tacoma Defiance continue to secure a playoff position, while three points would mark a second win on the season for a struggling Timbers2 side.

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Tacoma Defiance enters Week 16 as the third seed in the Western Conference with a 7-3-4 record. However, the team is coming off a loss to Houston Dynamo 2 in its last game after a nine-match unbeaten run. Three points against Timbers2 would move the Defiance to the top of the standings if both North Texas SC and St. Louis CITY2 were to lose this week. 

The Defiance will likely look to forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and midfielder Marlon Vargas to run the show, as both players have seven goals on the season, with Vargas also tallying four assists. If the prolific duo deliver and the Defiance backline continues to hold firm, all three points should be secured by Tacoma.

Players to Watch:

Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, forward - Along with Marlon Vargas, Ocampo-Chavez leads the team with seven goals. However, the forward hasn’t scored in consecutive matches so look for that change. 

Marlon Vargas, midfielder - Vargas has seven goals, four assists and scored a brace two matches ago. He’s in incredible form at the moment, but can the 21-year-old do it night in and night out?

Andrew Thomas, goalkeeper - The 23-year-old goalkeeper has been a steady presence for the Defiance all season with 31 saves and conceding only 11 goals. Look for Thomas to make vital saves to keep another clean sheet for the away side.

Timbers2 come into this week’s matchup with its own struggles as the club is coming off consecutive losses with the latest being a 4-0 shutout against Real Monarchs. Despite the team recording its first win of the season three weeks ago, another losing streak looms if the home side can’t secure all three points over Tacoma Defiance. 

Currently Timbers2 are the 10th seed in the Western Conference with the worst goal difference in the league. If the team from Oregon hopes to beat the Defiance, it will have to be a complete team effort. Look for Timbers2 to hunker down on defense and rapidly spring into counterattacks when presented with the chance.

Players to Watch:

Blake Bodily, midfielder - The 24-year-old midfielder has been a bright spot for a struggling Timbers2 side with three goals. Can Bodily provide that spark the home side are desperately looking for?

Jamin Gogo Peter, midfielder - Gogo Peter is tied with Bodily for the most goals on the team with three, but typically comes off the bench. A late goal from a substitute may be just what Timbers2 need to overcome the Defiance.  

Hunter Sulte, goalkeeper - Despite not having a single clean sheet all season so far, Sulte is top five in the league in saves with 36. Look for the young goalkeeper to organize the Timbers2 backline and make critical saves to keep a clean sheet.