The pandemic was rough for Tacoma Defiance. Players in the USL bubble couldn’t practice with the Seattle Sounders. Players in the MLS bubble couldn’t play for Defiance, unless loaned for the entirety of the season – Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Ethan Dobbeleare were, eventually.
Defiance also lost a few home games as the Seattle Mariners used Cheney Stadium for their alternate training site. Still, the squad toughed it out. In fact, they came out of the restart 2-0-1, looking like just maybe things could be magical.
Eventually the losses of 7 players to the First Team, and the transfer of Jesse Daley (The Defiant 2019) to Brisbane Roar, over the past two seasons caught up to Tacoma, who finished third in the group.
Without their best who stood out as The Defiant of 2020, that player who best represents the spirit of Tacoma and Defiance more than anyone to wear the crest? [insert drumroll]
In 2020, this bizarre year, Ray Serrano turned into a goal dangerous threat. At 17 he had 3 goals scored on the season, tied for second on the squad with Chino Perez and Danny Robles.
His first goal of the year cemented a come-from-behind draw to take points against Sacramento Republic in Sac. That was the first time for Defiance to take down the giants and future MLS side.
Over the season he developed a more aggressive approach to his game. Slicing his way through defenses he looked to become a goal-dangerous winger, not just a flair player. The assertive and artistic style is perfect for someone wearing the Black Ink and Green of Tacoma.
Starting the year as the youngest player on the roster Ray Serrano built himself up from infrequent sub into regular starter. Six of his first seven appearances were as a sub. By the end of the year Ray had a stretch with five starts in a row, including three times going a full 90 in a year where the usage of five subs meant that was a quite rare event for attacking players. Serrano’s hard work in practice is emblematic of what Tacoma expects from its people.
Last year after winning the Development Academy Western Conference Best XI he said that he wanted to win it again. Ray didn’t get that opportunity, because in the year he turned 18 he played too frequently on the professional side.
Whenever 2021 starts, Serrano looks certain to be a regular with Tacoma. He will be just 18 and have 989 competitive minutes under his belt.
Other considerations were for Alec Diaz, who lead the squad in scoring with six goals and Sam Rogers whose value was demonstrated through his absence as he worked on transferring to a team in Spain. They were the Attacking Player of 2020 and the Defensive Player of 2020 respectively.
The Defiant by matchday polling
- Diaz 3
- Rogers 2.5
- Serrano 2
- Cissoko 1
- Daley 1
- Dhillon 1
- Dobbeleare 1
- Gonzalez 1
- Herrera 1
- Klenofsky 1
- Fernandez .5
- Ocampo-Chavez .5
- Reynolds .5
Danny Robles and Taylor Mueller didn’t win The Defiant for a specific match, but they were frequently finalists for the award.
Robles showed flexibility that he can be a strong 8 as well as a dynamic 10. Mueller’s defense and leadership were vital in a season so frequently damaged by matches rescheduled due to the pandemic and wildfires.