A strong fortress has a wall, and walls further out, and walls further away than that. Different techniques are necessary at each defensive band. A harrying presence out near the edge of the kingdom, a city guard channels the flow into specific lanes, then big thick walls stop everything that attempts to enter.
Josh Atencio’s soccer career is similar. His ability to contribute in defense across multiple lines is how he earned his contract with Tacoma Defiance. Once a more attacking midfielder he is now a dual-purpose player that plays both as a defensive mid and a centerback. How that sorts out in his future is unknowable. How it sorted out in 2019 was that he grew into a key blockade for the South Sound squad.
The Sounders organization has a long history of employing this type of player – Brad Evans and Gustav Svensson are the best examples.
Atencio can sally forth, charging out from deep positions to provide support for the Defiance attack. His passes are best at short distances, building out towards the opposing goal slowly. When he marches forward, the team forces the opposition backwards.
On traditional set-pieces he is one of the primary targets. That’s how he netted his lone goal in 2019.
The art of defense is tricky a beast. The easiest way to prevent opponents from doing what they want is fouling them. It is a harsh tactic that allows dead ball opportunities in dangerous places, especially when the offender is a centerback or defensive mid.
Josh does not have that issue. He fouled only 14 times last season, or once every other match. It’s the sign of an intellectual defender. He parries and counters rather than slamming his body through the enemy.
His ability to work multiple lines appears in games as well. His mobility means that he can provide reinforcement stepping back, or stepping up. Knowing the appropriate times to do that, however, can be is another art that takes seasons to refine.
Being a student of the game, Josh pays particular attention to the play of Sounders Gustav Svensson and Jordy Delem. Those two players do what Josh wants to do – play in MLS in whatever central defensive role the team needs.
Last season, at 17, Atencio was listed at 6’1” and 174. That number was probably out of date a few months into the season. Man-child may be an overused phrase in sports. In this case, it is appropriate. Josh is well built, not just for someone who turns 18 at the end of the month, but for a soccer player of any age, on any part of the pitch.
He is more than a tall wall opposing teams must navigate around, his footwork is strong and his swift lateral adjustments bode well for his future in whatever line of defense he works.
23 starts | 2 sub appearances | 2,076 minutes | 1 goal | 1 assists | 7 shots | 9 key passes
Off the Pitch
Josh isn’t all hard edges and tough tackles. His inner smile appears quickly shopping at MSM or reading books to youngsters as he did at Curious Bear in Fircrest. Throughout the season, he discovered more about Tacoma touring the area.
At the Valley Ridge Playfied mini pitch opening in SeaTac he joined with RAVE Foundation in passing out soccer balls to everyone in attendance. He also kicked the ball around with a group of enthusiastic kids.
Looking to 2020
Listed as a midfielder, Josh is going to defend the net wherever he is on the field. As a defensive midfielder he is also able to contribute to the attack via is strong passing.
At centerback his dreams of exploring a grand future might be strongest. In ways he is part of a modernization in the defensive game, one that values play with ball at his feet. His capability of playing further up is exactly why his potential is grand.
Expect to see Atencio in both roles in 2020 and he’ll probably collect 2000+ minutes while scoring a couple goals, assisting Defiance’s master plan for a promising season in Tacoma and abroad.
For more on Josh Atencio and your 2020 Tacoma Defiance roster:
- Watching MLS Cup at Home Motivates Defiance Defender Josh Atencio
- Leadership by Committee
- Nucleus of Defiance Roster Returns for 2020
- Tacoma Defiance Signs Four to New Contracts
The 2020 schedule is out – Mapping Defiance: Tacoma’s 2020 Campaign.