Before the 2011 MLS season, Houston Dynamo goalkeeper had two improbable claims to fame:
•He was credited with a goal in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League when his long ball against El Salvador's Metapan bounded into the net.
•He shares his name with a quirky indie-rock band from Michigan.
This season Hall is making a name for himself in more conventional fashion. He's the starting keeper for a team that has reached the MLS Cup final against Los Angeles (Nov. 20, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Hall has been the one constant in a fluctuating Dynamo lineup as the team started well, limped through the middle of the season and surged late. In his first season as the team's No. 1 goalkeeper, Hall has played every minute in the regular season and playoffs.
"At the beginning of the year, we had games where we were outplayed," coach Dominic Kinnear says. "Tally played great, kept us in games and got us a couple of points. Those early games gave him confidence."
Hall served a long apprenticeship before getting the starting job. After playing at San Diego State, he signed with Danish club Esbjerg, where he played sparingly.
Upon returning to the USA, Hall signed with the Dynamo and backed up age-defying goalkeeper Pat Onstad. "I told my mom if I can't beat out a 39-year-old goalkeeper, I don't deserve to play at all," Hall said.
But Hall made the most of the experience and found he could learn a lot from the three-time MLS champion.
"(Hall) was always respectful," defender Bobby Boswell says. "He knew his time was coming. When he got his chance in reserve games or CONCACAF, he always stood out."
Hall got experience in the Dynamo lineup in tournaments outside the league. He made 10 saves in an overtime U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss in Seattle, where Hall grew up. He also played in the CONCACAF Champions League and scored a goal fit for a viral video highlight.
"I hit a long ball," Hall says. "(Houston forward) Brian Ching basically tackled the other goalkeeper, and it went in. I don't really write that up on my resume too much. It was a complete fluke."
"He reminds people that he scored that goal every once in a while," Boswell says. "He was tied for goals with one of the actual forwards who had been injured, so he was ribbing some of the guys, which I thought was pretty classy."
Onstad moved on in the offseason, and Hall became the starter. Through an up-and-down season, Kinnear shuffled the lineup. Geoff Cameron moved to center back from central midfield. Adam Moffat was slotted into defensive midfield.
"I never looked at it as a bad thing," Hall says. "We have good players on our team who don't make the starting 11 every game. I never felt uncomfortable with the players in front of me. No matter who was on the field, I thought everyone was on the same page. The 11 out there now is the 11 from when our momentum swung in a positive direction."
While the lineup shuffled, Hall took a more vocal role like experienced goalkeepers do.
"At the start of the year, I don't think he was yelling the way I wanted him to," Boswell says. "He was kind of the new guy. Now he's played so many games and he understands that the more he yells, the better we are as a team. He's not afraid to yell at anybody now, but he's not one of those goalies who yells just to yell."
He earned individual attention, being named to the MLS All-Star team in midseason.
"It speaks volumes that he got called into the All-Star Game," Boswell says. "Coaches around the league respect him, and players respect him."
"He never looked rattled during the season," Kinnear says. "The attitude we saw from Tally and the rest of the team has never dropped."
Hall also has learned not to give his teammates an opportunity to give him grief, even if that means relegating a T-shirt bearing his name — a gift from the eponymous band — to his closet.
"I wore the T-shirt for a while until one of my friends started making fun of me for wearing a T-shirt with my name on it," Hall says. "I was in a grocery store checking out, so I was fairly embarrassed."
"If he did something like that, he'd never hear the end of it," Boswell says. "Especially from me."