Houston Dynamo goalkeeper prepared for high-flying LA Galaxy attack on Sunday
As a goalkeeper, Tally Hall has an unrivaled view of one of the scariest sights in MLS: an LA Galaxy counter-attack.
"They break out with an organized fury of movement," he said. "The combination play is something to admire. How they attack. It's not just that they combine well, it's the effectiveness that when they combine they put themselves in such great spots.
"You would never call them solely a counter-attacking team, they have too many good players just to be labeled as such, but when they counter-attack their runs are deadly," Hall told HoustonDynamo.com.
Perfect examples came in L.A.'s 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on April 20, as the home team twice breached Sporting's stingy defense with swift and incisive moves from one end of the field to the other.
"It makes it very difficult when someone breaks on you and they're that fast, that organized, can pass the ball so well," Hall said. "If you don't have all your ducks in a row 100 percent of the time you're going to get beat. And let's face it, it's the game of soccer, you can have everything set up perfectly and you're still going to have teams that break on you and create chances. That's one of the reasons why it's such a fun sport to watch and I imagine that Sunday's game will be an entertaining game."
Barring injury, Hall will be between the posts for the Dynamo for what figures to be among their toughest challenges of the season: Sunday's trip to the reigning MLS Cup champions, who have won three and tied one of their four MLS home fixtures so far in 2013, conceding only once.
The Galaxy lost 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium last May but the Dynamo's recent visits to the Entertainment Capital of the World have been Hollywood blockbusters without happy endings. Houston's past six matches vs the Galaxy in The Home Depot Center have brought six defeats, including the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup finals. The Dynamo have failed to keep a clean sheet in their past eight matches against the Galaxy.
History suggests Hall should expect a busy evening, yet he cannot wait for the match.
"They've been champions the last two years, consistently the best team in the league, so it's always fun to face them even though if you look at the history of that battle we don't come out on top often," he said. "But those are the games you want to play in, you want to play against the best teams and last year's champions. So it's something that you look forward to, but you know it's going to be a battle, you know it's going to be tough, you're going to be physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the game. It's something fun to prepare for even though you know it's going to be very, very difficult."
Dominic Kinnear's players will have little time to recover. Houston fly coast-to-coast on Monday to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium two days later but Hall said that the Dynamo will have tunnel vision on Sunday.
"When you're out on the field you can't think about next Wednesday, or the next game, you have a game at hand and your goal's to win that one," he said. "Managing energy levels, that's a coach's job. When he puts you out on the field you are expected to give everything you have for that game. So when we come out, the starting XI, they're going to give everything they have until Dom makes a sub."
Adopting a narrow focus also means suppressing the painful memories from the past two MLS Cup finals and treating Sunday's fixture as nothing more than a chance for the Dynamo to record a valuable and morale-boosting first road win of the year against one of the strongest clubs in MLS.
"I want to win every game whether it's LA Galaxy or Colorado Rapids. I want to win, I don't want to get scored on, I want to perform well, help my team perform well. The fact that they've beaten us the last two years - yeah, of course I'd like to beat them," said Hall. "But I know that no matter what happens on Sunday nothing's going to take away the fact that they beat us two years in a row in the final. We have to move on, last year's over, it's just a great opportunity for us to have a battle and hopefully get three points."
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian and SI.com.