Injuries are always bad. An ACL injury to the only veteran forward not away on international duty is even worse. Seattle Sounders FC will be without Will Bruin for “some time.” That leaves Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez as the only forward on the current Sounders roster. Ocampo-Chavez is a former Tacoma Defiance player who has dominated the Academy and United States Youth National Team level for the past two years, earning the elevation to MLS talent less than two months ago.
Tacoma Defiance have two forwards in their ranks that could help the Sounders. Young Alec Diaz (3 goals, 2 assists in 705 USL minutes in last the two seasons) and 24-year-old Justin Dhillon (9 goals, 0 assists in 1,568 minutes in the last two seasons). Dhillon is on fire with 6 goals in 7 games and winning the USL Championship Fans’ Choice Goal of the Week for Week 11 after scoring in just 9.17 seconds.
Q: That’s good, what style of forward is he?
A: Dhillon is right-footed with four of his six goals this season coming from that foot. He also uses his head well as a target on set pieces. Justin can also run down balls in wide spaces with a bit more speed than is expected for a player of his height. Think of him as a target forward willing to run. He also has 2 assists with 22 key passes over his three USL seasons.
Q: How did he wind up with Tacoma Defiance?
A: After college in 2017, Dhillon signed with LA Galaxy II. That year he tied for the team lead with six goals scored and looked to be rapidly charging up the prospect charts. Much of 2018 was marred with injury. He only scored 3 goals and LA parted ways.
In preseason, Dhillon worked diligently to fill the veteran leadership void that David Estrada held with Tacoma in 2018. Justin earned the opportunity through hard work while also filling a soccer role that Ocampo-Chavez and Diaz are growing into – target man. Dhillon’s large frame gave Defiance a slightly different look than the rest of the attacking part of the squad.
Q: It seems like he came out of nowhere?
A: Not really. Similar to Alfonso and Alec he won an Academy title. Back with the Galaxy Academy Justin Dhillon took home the U-16 National Championship. His strong Academy performance (72 goals in 3 seasons) in LA garnered a look at from the United States U-18 National Team back in November of 2012. Former Tacoma player Jalen Markey was also on that squad.
His next amateur stop was at Cal-Poly. With the Mustangs he scored 15 goals and collected 12 assists in four years. He twice earned selection to the All-Big West First Team, a second team appearance, and a freshman team appearance as well.
Q: Didn’t he set a USL scoring record or something?
A: Yes, and also nearly another. The fastest goal in USL history came about because the team embraced Defiance Coach Chris Little’s ideals of being ruthless and imposing their will on the opposition.
Justin also was a single match short of tying the USL record for consecutive matches with a goal. The record is six consecutive matches with a goal by Dane Kelly, who netted 10 goals in that stretch while with Reno 1868 FC.
Dhillon’s streak ended when shutout by Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. He then scored in the next match in the draw against Austin Bold FC.
Q: What Sounders forward is he most like?
A: Oddly enough, probably Will Bruin. Both are mostly solid hold-up players who will use boundless energy to pressure opposing keepers and defenses. Like Will, Justin will chase long balls in wider channels in order to help relieve pressure and can pounce on a scoring opportunity. Dhillon might be a bit faster than Bruin, but they play similar styles, one is an MLS veteran with 81 goals in all competitions and the other is valiantly climbing the professional ladder with 15 goals in USL play.
Q: Will his skills translate at the MLS level?
A: That is the great unknown. What Seattle Sounders President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey and the scouting department think of Dhillon might be indicated by their decision in light of the Bruin injury. If they believe his Tacoma Defiance performance can translate to MLS for a couple matches, Justin Dhillon likely gets the call to don the Rave Green.
Next home match is our Pride match on July 24 versus Las Vegas Lights FC (7:00 p.m. / Party Deck tickets available)