While many believe Tally Hall has to fill retired Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad’s extremely big shoes, the 25-year-old goalkeeper isn’t feeling any undue pressure entering his first season as a starter.
Hall knows what’s expected of him and is looking to build on the lessons he learned from Onstad – the only No. 1 goalkeeper the Dynamo have ever known – to ease his transition into the starting role. Hall took every opportunity to learn from one of MLS’ best netminders the past two seasons.
“Pat is a legend,” Hall told MLSsoccer.com of what he learned from the retired Canadian international. “It was hard not learn from him – for example, he had amazing positioning that made it very hard to beat him just from how he set himself up.”
Hall attributes that skill gleaned from Onstad to his ability to read the game and know when to make the right decisions. That’s something he will focus on going into the season.
“Watching him, it looked like he made a lot of easy saves, but that was because he was in good positions all the time,” said Hall. “I made a lot of diving saves that people liked, but those were saves Pat would have made easily because he would have been in the right position, and I want to incorporate that into my game.”
[inline_node:316230]While he learned a lot from Onstad, Hall is confident he can bring something extra to the net for the Dynamo. He points to a moment during his two years in Denmark with Superliga club Esbjerg when a teammate gave him a DVD featuring Peter Schmeichel highlights. Hall was immediately impressed by the former Denmark and Manchester United legend’s aggressive style and feels that’s something unique he can bring to the field.
“Seeing how he was aggressive and sort of crazy showed that he was a massive presence in goal,” Hall said of the one-time European champion. “Not that Pat wasn’t, but I think there is an opportunity for me to bring a little more of an attacking style of play.”
Hall realizes there are questions surrounding his taking over the starting position and he understands the concerns. In two years with the Dynamo, Hall has 15 tournament appearances but just five league starts, all while filling in for the injured Onstad last year. He learned in those games that MLS matches are a different animal.
“There is a clear difference between league play and cup matches, and I didn’t know that until I started last year,” he said. "The intensity level is just higher.”
As the projected starter, Hall has a different approach coming into the 2011. Playing behind a consistent performer like Onstad, Hall said, “It can be difficult to stay plugged in and, sometimes as a backup, I like to think it’s human nature, it’s difficult to feel involved every week. … When I started last year, you feel more involved.”
Hall’s first step to change his approach was to work out with his college coach at San Diego State University to get ready for the preseason. He also plans to work on his preparation by dedicating more time off the field. The change in goal will not come without challenges. Hall will join a Dynamo defense that is likely to see a new starter at three of the four positions. Hall is looking to use the preseason to sharpen his relationship with the new group and develop a strong level of communication.
“We have 13 preseason games, and that will give us opportunities to work out the details ahead of March 19 so we can be on top of it,” he said. “I will have to learn the defenders and they will have to learn me.”
Hall and the Dynamo began their training camp on Monday and play their first scrimmage against Houston Baptist University on Feb. 5.