From its very beginning, our Commencement Bay city has been a waypoint of dreamers. Many travelers have stopped through and made a name for themselves on their way to destined success. In 2018, Tacoma took over as a steppingstone for the Seattle Sounders organization, filling the gap between Sounders Academy and Seattle Sounders FC. Tacoma Defiance are the summit of Sounders Development, a final South Sound test before the challenges waiting in MLS.
In 2019, four players made the leap from Tacoma Defiance player to the MLS team. They follow in the footsteps of Nouhou, Delem, Craven, and Chenkam. They follow in the daring steps of Paul Satko and Frank Herbert – like those Tacoma travelers, these players take their lessons learned in the shadow of Rainier with them wherever they go.
Danny Leyva, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Justin Dhillon, and Shandon Hopeau are part of Tacoma soccer history forever. Wherever their careers take them, they will carry the flag of Defiance and our city with them. Justin, Alfonso, and Danny were on the stage as Seattle accepted the 2019 MLS Cup singing and celebrating.
Danny Leyva’s rise was the fastest. He made his Defiance debut on September 29, 2018 at just 15 years old. He signed not only his first professional contract, but also his second, by the age of 16. On April 9, 2019 Leyva became a Seattle Sounders FC midfielder. He led the Sounders Academy to the 2018 GA Cup Premier and 2019 GA Cup Champions division titles. Danny was also on the U.S. U-17 side that took second in the Concacaf championship.
Able to switch the ball using either foot, his passes open up attacking space for the rest of the team. He may not get the assist, instead assisting the assist. He is a slick passing midfielder with impressive range throughout his passing tree. His posture in defense is similar to his ball hawk nature. He lies in wait, ready to pounce on errant passes.
Danny made four starts and two sub appearances with the 2019 MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC. He was the 12th Homegrown Player to sign with Sounders and at just 15 was also the youngest. The Las Vegas-raised youth player joined the Academy at 13.
Over the past few years, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez has been one of the forces behind Sounders Academy’s dominance in national youth tournaments. Sounders FC made history when they won the Generation Adidas Cup Champions Division in 2019, the first MLS side to do so. Ocampo-Chavez was the Golden Boot winner for the tournament. On May 1, 2019 he inked his deal with Sounders FC, less than two years after his debut in the USL Championship.
Ocampo-Chavez is a front-facing forward who likes to cut in from angles. His quick feet can turn what seems like simple touch into a shot with just a flick of the toe. Able to play both up top, underneath, and out wide, the forward displayed great role flexibility in his second professional year.
Alfonso started one match and appeared in two others during the Sounders regular season. They went on to win MLS Cup 2019. He was the 13th Homegrown Player to sign with Sounders. He is just 17 years old and comes to Tacoma/Seattle from Merced, California.
7 players were selected to represent their nation in camps and tournaments in 2019
- Sam Rogers – U.S. U-23, U.S. U-20
- Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – U.S. U-23, U.S. U17
- Trey Muse – U.S. U-20
- Ray Serrano – U.S. U-17
- Danny Leyva – U.S. U-17
- Alec Diaz – Puerto Rico
- Denso Ulysse (now with Inter Miami CF) – Haiti U-23
In January 2020, Vargas was called into the U.S. U-20 squad, starting the next wave of Defiance-to-National Team recognition. Diaz was just called into the Puerto Rico U-20 squad as well.
Justin Dhillon’s path to the Seattle Sounders started in Southern California. When he signed with Tacoma Defiance, he was a bit of a reclamation project. The highly rated Galaxy Academy product struggled with injuries in his two seasons with Galaxy II. Those days seem to be well behind him, as the 2019 campaign has been the best in his career. Dhillon scored the fastest goal in USL history and fell just one match short of the record for most consecutive matches with a goal scored. On June 28, 2019 Seattle Sounders needed forward help and signed Dhillon to an MLS deal.
Now 24, the Rancho Santa Margarita, California product carries Tacoma with him in Rave Green and Defiance Black.
He is deceivingly fast, often underestimated as a big body who should just be a target forward. He can spring out on the run, create in traffic, and still put a sneaky headed ball on frame.
Justin is the fifth player to join the Sounders as a USL player without time in the Sounders Academy. He took seven shots in his 264 minutes with the MLS Cup champions.
Shandon Hopeau finished his fourth season in the USL and his second professional season. He is one of the first Sounders Academy players to eschew college for professional play. Hopeau appeared in the U.S. Open Cup each of the past two seasons with Sounders FC. Due to injuries at the MLS level, the Seattle Sounders turned to their Academy product for help. The Defiance goal, assist, shot, and chances created leader took the pitch in an MLS match on September 7, 2019, against the Colorado Rapids.
Hopeau is a winger who likes to drive in at angles, creating danger with the ball at his feet rather than via the cross. A tenacious defender on the wing, he has also emerged as a team leader.
Shandon is the first player to earn a Short-Term Agreement and see the field in league play with Seattle. He is just 21 years old, a stalwart for his USL side, and a player with a promising future.
7 other players signed to short-term contracts, but did not play for Seattle Sounders FC in 2019
- Nick Hinds
- Josh Atencio
- Danny Robles
- Alec Diaz
- Azriel Gonzalez
- Ray Serrano
- Sam Rogers
Who will follow in their footsteps?
When Sounders preseason started, many Defiance players were on the training fields trying to earn the call. As camp continued a few men stood out – Josh Atencio, Shandon Hopeau, Danny Robles, and Sam Rogers all trained and scrimmaged in Mexico City during the final phase of preseason.
Their dreams may become reality soon with Rave Green replacing Defiance Black. No matter where these dreamers go in their careers, the City of Tacoma and the Flag of Defiance will be carried with them.