It is a nasty habit in soccer, but age really does matter. That goes double for national team prospects. But as Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall embarks on his first national team training camp, which concludes with a friendly against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium, there is a chance to show everyone that age is a relative term.
Hall’s inclusion in the USMNT has been a hot topic for more than a year. After a debut year as an MLS starter that included an MLS Cup finals appearance and an All-Star nod, Hall was a glib pick for USMNT inclusion.
Despite those early successes, Hall was stuck on the depth chart behind youngsters Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, his current camp teammates, and mainstays Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, who both ply their trade in the English Premier League. Throw in the always reliable Nick Rimando and it seemed as if 27-year-old Hall's USMNT prospects would remain a perpetual carrot at the end of a stick.
Now, a late camp invite has given Hall the chance to prove his worth against both Hamid and Johnson. And with 10 World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup coming up this calendar year, each goalkeeper will be looking to leave a lasting impression on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and secure playing time with the full team moving forward.
SEE HALL AND THE USMNT TAKE ON CANADA AT BBVA COMPASS STADIUM
“When you’re playing a game this year it matters who can perform this year,” Hall said. “When there are competitive games, the coaches want to win. Coaches don’t want to win in eight years, they want to win today and that’s what I’m trying to be a part of.”
Hall’s first two seasons as the Dynamo’s first choice goalkeeper suggest he can be part of the solution now.
The Dynamo custodian burst onto the scene in 2011, putting up all-star worthy peformances against the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls, performances that caught everyone’s eye with spectacular saves against tremendous barrages.
While he showed early he can make the spectacular happen, the Dynamo custodian is just now starting to come into his own. Gone are the games where Hall needs to make the diving stops. Instead, Hall has a better understanding of the game and positioning and is more often than not able to put himself in the right spot at the right time.
If he can show Klinsmann and USMNT goalkeepers coach Chris Woods those same skills, he could prove that their “Keeper of the Future” may be a tad older than many expect.
“I do feel like I have a lot of really good years ahead of me so, for me, I’m not going in there feeling ‘Oh, I’m too old for the young guys and too young for the experienced guys,’” Hall said. “I’m going to go in there, do my job and give everything I’ve got. I want to be the best goalkeeper I can be and if I play national team games then that’s good that I’ve improved to the level that the national team coaches believe I can play.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @DarrellLovell.