Coming off a brilliant performance with the Sounders Academy U-17s at the GA Cup Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez signed with the First Team. He’s now on an MLS contract with Seattle Sounders and representing the United States at the Concacaf U-17 World Cup Qualifiers. That does not mean his time with Tacoma Defiance is done. Coach Chris Little says, “He’s continuing to develop.”
For both Danny Leyva and Ocampo-Chavez, that development will happen both with the Sounders and Tacoma Defiance.
We caught up with Defiance Head Coach Chris Little to get more insight on the matter.
What’s your next step with Tacoma Defiance and players like Leyva and Ocampo-Chavez that earn their MLS contracts?
We’re starting to see the development pathway and model with how the club is coming to fruition. We have some talented young players that we believe in. But they are still young players that we are developing. They will be training with the First Team regularly, but if they are not in the mix for that they will get to play in the USL and learn their trade as they have been. Against older, experienced men.
So, it’s an exciting time for us as a club. Obviously for us on the development side of the club, the players are getting opportunities. That precedent gives hope to all the young players in the system.
What have you picked up from Alfonso this year that he’s learned and is doing better in the way he’s approaching the game and the way he’s seeing situations?
He’s continuing to develop. I think the key thing for Alfonso recently is consistency. He’s been a little bit unlucky in the last year or so in terms of getting consistent games, minutes, and playing. He’s had a few niggles and injuries. I think in preseason with the first team, he played Atlanta quite well. He would have scored a goal, but the ball stopped in a puddle on the line. Then he got in the next game and got a concussion. He was out for a little while and missed the second bit of preseason. He was a little unfortunate.
Then he came back. He was playing consistently again, got a series of games, and was looking sharp. I thought he continued that form into the GA Cup. I think when you are playing and test yourself against older, more athletic players, you go back to your own age and the game is a little bit slower.
How close attention to do you pay to the US U-17 games with Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Leyva? How much do you think about what they can do when they come back?
That’s another reference point for us in terms of how they are doing as players – how are they doing against international competition? Obviously in Concacaf there’s a mixed variety of games. When they are playing games against Mexico, England, Argentina – those types of games – you are saying ‘where do they stack up against some of the best players in their age group?’ That’s why the GA Cup is very important for us. It lets us see where they are in relation to their peers. What’s the reference for us, and what areas do they still need to develop? Where are their strengths?
Next match at Oklahoma City Energy FC on Saturday, May 4 at 5:30 pm. (ESPN+).
Next home match versus Portland Timbers 2, a Day of Defiance, at Cheney Stadium on May 12 at 1:30 pm. (Tickets available here).