By now you’ve seen Trey Muse’s stunning quad save to preserve the point earned at New Mexico United on Wednesday night. If you haven’t take twenty-one seconds and celebrate the moment.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) October 17, 2019
Muse is the team leader in saves and clean sheets. It’s his first professional year after exemplary performances with Indiana University, the Sounders Academy, and U.S. Youth National Teams. After Thursday’s practice, he told Ari Liljenwall and Jackson Felts that he had never had a moment like that.
“Never in a game, maybe in training, but not of that magnitude. It was really awesome to do that. It was an out of body experience.”
It took a historic performance from Muse for Tacoma Defiance to hold New Mexico United to a single goal.
“We were under pressure a lot. It was a difficult game.”
United’s onslaught forced centerbacks Sam Rogers, Ever Rubio, and Aleks Berkolds into fending off a barrage of crosses and throughballs. They cleared those pesky threats 40 times.
It was a defensive shift from what worked in the shutout against Colorado Springs Switchbacks. That 2-0 win was powered by defensive pressure in the midfield and attacking third. Defiance were nearly twice as successful with upfield tackles and succeeded on 70% of their attempts.
Against the potent attack in Fresno, Tacoma managed to hold the Foxes to just a single goal. In the midfield the two sides went toe-to-toe, splitting the duels and tackles nearly evenly. In some ways the match was similar to the New Mexico United draw, but didn’t require the amazing performance from Muse.
Instead, Fresno FC was forced into possession about 25 yards from goal. The buzzing three-defensive midfielders in the midfield triangle limited their penetration. Josh Atencio, Jesse Daley, and Danny Leyva are most frequently played as ball-winning mids. Their ability to interchange and to stretch into a flat band of three, meant that Fresno was forced wider than they desired.
The variance in how the defense succeeds continues even to their success against Tulsa. Another 1-1 draw, that match saw the Roughnecks play a man down for the final 15 minutes. That allowed Tacoma to hold a bit more possession.
Playing down was not the only reason Defiance held Tulsa to a single goal. The Men in Black won a majority of duels, aerial duels, and tackles. It was a full team effort.
That full team effort is the key to how Defiance succeeds defensively. There is no magic tactic. There is no singular game-changing player.
There is a group of men who are resolved that they are capable of more together than they are alone. These players grew into a determination that no matter what outsiders think, no matter how many times they fall, they will rise and succeed.