T. Hall - Dynamo Talisman

In the second consecutive year, a WPFC Alumn has played in the MLS CUP Championship. This year, Tally Hall (Goalkeeper/Houston Dynamo) and last year Ciaran O’Brien (Midfielder/Colorado Rapids). The Houston Dynamo came up short in their bid for a third MLS Cup title in six years, losing 1-0 on the road against the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup championship game Sunday night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

The loss broke a five-game Dynamo winning streak and a nine-game Houston unbeaten streak. The Dynamo finished the season 10-3-4 in their final 17 games, 15-10-13 in 38 MLS games. The Dynamo are now 9-5-3 all-time in playoff games. It was the second time in three years that the Galaxy eliminated Houston in Southern California, having won the 2009 Western Conference final in extra time.

Tally intensely focused during 2011 MLS Cup.
Getty Images

In his first year as a starter for the Houston Dynamo, Tally Hall followed up a regular-season in which he played every minute by repelling 10 shots as Houston downed Philadelphia, 4-1 on aggregate, in the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s a big number, but he’s already done it. Twice.

Though Hall, 26, didn’t play any league games in 2009 and only five last year, Coach Dominic Kinnear groomed him with appearances in SuperLiga, Concacaf Champions League, and U.S. Open Cup. Those games accounted for his previous 10-save displays, as well as a goal he scored against Isidro Metapan two years ago when one of his long kicks wound up in the net.

“I try not to remind anyone of that goal,” he laughs. “Brian Ching tackling the goalkeeper and the ball bouncing in. Just kick it up to Brian Ching and good things happen. Shock, right? Usually he touches it before it goes in, this time he just cleared the keeper out of the way. It was one of those flukes. I wasn’t trying to do it, so I don’t talk about it too much.”

What he does like to talk about is his team’s strong surge during the second half of the season that straightened out a season veering off-course. There’s a long list of reasons: a great, possibly MVP-caliber season for Brad Davis; a midfield core strengthened by the additions of Adam Moffat and Luiz Camargo; a breakthrough season for Corey Ashe at left back; and a front line bolstered by a healthy Ching and revived Calen Carr, acquired in a trade with Chicago.

“Even though we feel short in the MLS Cup, this year has to be looked at as an overall success, we’ve gotten a good mix of players coming in and guys developing,” says Hall, who took over the starter’s job when Pat Onstad retired at age 42. “Corey Ashe behind Brad has helped out the back line, Adam and Luiz have come in and held down the middle of the park for us.
In his 34 games, Hall allowed 1.21 goals per game and recorded six shutouts; maybe not Onstad quality, but not bad for a keeper who for two years couldn’t get off the bench at his Danish club to play in a first-team game.

“At the beginning of the year, we probably had him tested a little too much but he played some great games, especially at Seattle and at New York,” says Kinnear of the former San Diego State All-American. “When we weren’t playing our best he kept us in games. Then there was a point in the season where I think as every team does as well as every player, you have your ups and downs. I think the last couple of games for us he’s played pretty well, especially on the road. He’s had a couple of shutouts in Dallas and in Portland where I think Tally played particularly well.”

He didn’t get the shutout in Philly but he and the Dynamo did get the win and a one-goal cushion for the second leg. That advantage is mitigated by the fact Philly has won both league meetings in Houston the past two years, with their encounter in this year’s home opener especially frustrating for the Dynamo.

“That’s a team that’s always going to find some chances and we’ve seen the way they defend this year,” says Hall of the Union, which finished just a point behind the second-place Dynamo in the Eastern Conference.

“They scored early on us the first game at home, and for 85 minutes, we threw everything we had at them, and they didn’t break down. Philly’s going to work as hard as they need to get the job done, and we need to have that same mentality and throw it back at them.”

Hall didn’t get much time his freshman season at SDSU and starting as a sophomore in 2004 can best be described as humbling. He gave up 34 goals in 19 games. Then two things happened. The Aztecs moved from the Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation to the Pacific-10, and in this tougher competition a new Tally Hall emerged. He allowed just 10 goals and posted 12 shutouts in 19 games.

Tally make 1 of four saves during 2011 MLS Cup.
Prost Amerika Photography

His work and sacrifice, plus the influence of head coach Lev Kirshner and goalkeepers coach Matt Hall, transformed him into an All-American.

“I stopped wave boarding, I stopped snowboarding, I stopped all extracurricular activities in college to focus on soccer,” Tally Hall says. “It started there but it never really ends.”

He repeated as an all-American the following year and the Galaxy drafted him, but he summoned his adventuresome self again. Like many Americans, he found a small Scandinavian club – Esjberg in Denmark – to launch his pro career. He enjoyed the life there, but soccer never got off the ground. In two years he didn’t get a single first-team game, and signed with Houston in 2009.

“Growing up, Kasey Keller was the man. He’s always going to be a legend in my mind. There was a Showcase tournament when I was 16 and that’s the first time I ever saw him. In my parent’s house I still have a shirt with his signature on it because a couple of us got the courage to go up and ask him.

Tally was selected for two end of the year Dynamo awards: Save of the Year: Tally Hall, (March 25 at Seattle) and Ironman of the Year (most MLS minutes played)