Week 4 of MLS NEXT Pro action is upon us, and this round's Game of the Week and two of the best in the Western Conference meet at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington for their first-ever chapter of the Cascadian Cup rivalry on Sunday. The action is set to kick off at 6 p.m. ET.
This and every match will be available to stream live and free of charge on MLSNEXTPro.com.
MLS NEXT Pro has teamed up with automated camera technology provider Spiideo to deliver live streams of all MLS NEXT Pro matches, ensuring every game this season will be available for viewing on MLSNEXTPro.com.
The matchup is this week's MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week, so viewers will experience a multi-camera production for this match.
The Defiance and their eight goals top the early MLS NEXT Pro scoring ranks. Striker Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez is leading the charge with his four tallies on the season. The 20-year-old is the only striker to score in each match week and has emerged as the player to beat in the league’s inaugural Golden Boot race.
So far, North Texas FC is the only side to hold Tacoma Defiance to one goal this season. All eight of their scores have come from inside the 18-yard box, which also tops the league. So far, no opponent has managed a clean sheet against the Defiance, and their game plan seems to compliment the team’s finishing superpowers.
The question will be who starts in goal. So far, head coach Wade Webber has opted for three different goalkeepers in as many weeks. With Steve Cleveland, Wyatt Nelson, and Andrew Thomas each getting a start.
What they're saying:
Defiance fans can expect to see some familiar faces in Sunday's lineup selection. With the club's academy players focused on the Generation Addidas Cup and the first-team Seattle Sounders occupied with MLS and Concacaf Champions League matches, look for defender Randy Mendoza to captain the side once more in Week 4 to maintain some continuity.
"Our actual total number of players is smaller this year. And there aren't as many clear identifiable leaders, but they exist, and Randy is one of them," Webber said. "And so he's been our captain every game this season, there's regular communication with him. I rely on a couple of other players to just make sure I'm getting an accurate representation or picture of what the pulse of the team is at any given moment,"
Webber has also been impressed with what he has seen from his weekend opponent, especially last week.
"They were completely dominant. They gave up a goal against the run of play to fall down 2-1 and it looked like they were going to lose the game, and they kept pushing and pushing." he said."They're a good team, and we have our hands full this weekend, as I hope do they. I hope that we also present them with challenges but they're a good team."
Players to Watch:
Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez, Forward - The most dangerous man in the league is on pace to surpass his career-high watermark for goals scored in a season. He is looking primed to extend his tear for weeks to come.
Dylan Teves, Midfielder/Forward/Defender - You read his positioning correctly. 21-year-old Teves has featured as a central midfielder, right-back, and winger, respectively, through the first three weeks, which were all starts. The Washington Huskies product already has one goal and an assist to his name.
Randy Mendoza - As mentioned above, the Defiance will be relying on their regulars. Mendoza will more than likely get the armband on Sunday and hope to lead his side to its second win of the year.
WFC2 might benefit from stepping into the Cascadian rivalry last weekend when it hosted Timbers2 in a 2-2 thriller.
Whitecaps FC 2 has found a hero in substitution in both of the last two weeks on the scoresheet. Owen Antoniuk came off the bench and grabbed a brace to save a point against T2 last weekend, and Gio Aguilar did the same in Week 2 against Real Monarchs.
The first win in regulation has eluded WFC2 this season, but the attack has proven that the first win is just a matter of time. Whitecaps FC 2’s goals have been in comeback fashion, so look for head coach Nick Dasovic to try and position his team to work with a lead for the first time in 2022.
What they're saying:
Dasovic was rightfully proud of the fight his side showed last weekend. "I think the boys gave (the home fans) some good entertainment today, and gave the coaching stand a little bit of a heart attack," he said following the game. "But, with the goals and the way they came, we have this spirit in this organization, with this team particularly: we have a 'never say die' spirit, and I think it showed it today,"
Antoniuk's heroics off the bench also left a lasting impression. "I don't like to ever single guys out because it's a team sport," said Dasovic."But in Owen's case, he didn't start the game he came in at a moment where we needed him, and he showed what you need to do from the bench, he's a great example to other athletes,"
Players to Watch:
Owen Antoniuk, Midfielder - The 19-year-old showed real heart in last weekend’s comeback effort and proved a difference-maker.
Simon Becher, Forward - A striker who has produced a team-high nine shots. He looks dangerously close to punishing the team who first lets the goal open up for him.
Isaac Boehmer, Goalkeeper - While WFC2 is looking for the first win, that stat is not due to a lack of goalkeeping heroics. Boehmer’s nine saves this season have been crucial in his side’s effort and have helped ignite a two-game unbeaten streak.