Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor grad Tally Hall embraces return home to face Seattle Sounders

Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall, a 2003 Gig Harbor High School grad, holds the ball in the second half of an MLS soccer match on Sunday against the Sounders.
Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall, a 2003 Gig Harbor High School grad, holds the ball in the second half of an MLS soccer match on Sunday against the Sounders. AP

Tally Hall always enjoys playing in front of family and friends when he comes to Seattle. A 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor High School, Hall got another chance to play in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday, this time as goalkeeper of the Orlando City Soccer Club. Orlando faced off against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. While the result was a 4-0 win for the Sounders, Hall said it’s still a fun experience returning home.

“It’s a special trip every time I get to come back and play in Seattle,” Hall said. “It’s always fun; it always hits home a little harder. I’m living that childhood dream. It’s always special.”

Friends and family were in attendance.

“My parents always try to organize a big group,” Hall said. “They’re pretty good about always having a big show of support. It’s fun having cousins and aunts and uncles and friends and family. I don’t get to come up here much — it really does make it fun.”

Hall, 30, said he wishes he could spend a little more time with family while he’s here, but understands it’s a business trip.

“I see my parents for an hour or two, but after that, I’m with the team, either resting or eating with the team — all that stuff is pretty well scheduled out. But I figure when I’m done playing, I can hang out with whoever, whenever. Right now, it’s pretty focused.”

Hall spent 2009 through 2014 in the MLS with the Houston Dynamo, before being traded to 2015 expansion squad Orlando City in the offseason. Hall suffered an ACL injury last year and was rehabbing it into the 2015 season. He made his first start for Orlando City in May.

“I feel extremely blessed and fortunate to have landed here in Orlando,” Hall said. “I started the year still rehabbing. It was a frustrating start to the year; I wanted to be playing. The fans are absolutely phenomenal. The city has taken the team and really elevated it to being the No. 1 team in the city. The fans have treated us as such. It’s a fun and unique opportunity to be important and cheered on.”

As with any expansion team, Hall wasn’t sure what to expect as far as community support. He admits he was a bit skeptical about Orlando at first.

“Not a lot of people gave the city any credit — myself included — when I first saw it,” Hall said. “I thought, ‘Is Orlando going to be able to get passionate fans?’ I’m thrilled to say I was absolutely wrong. It’s incredible down here and a great addition to the league. It seems like with every expansion team now, that’s the norm. The popularity of the game in these cities is awesome.”

Hall said playing in his hometown didn’t provide any extra motivation or incentive to win, but said there’s something unique about playing in front of friends and family.

“It’s tough to say there’s extra motivation,” Hall said. “I’m extremely motivated for every game. I’ve had some of my better performances playing in Seattle. When there’s some sort of attachment to where you’re playing — you see it all the time, when guys leave a club, they have the best game of the season when they’re playing that team. Inherently, some things you get a little more excited for. That combination can make it so you have some of your better performances.”

Orlando City (7-7-11) sputtered against Seattle on Sunday, extending a recent run of poor form.

“We didn’t do a very good job of handling the combination of high pressure and dealing with a difficult surface. Combat that with playing simple, it felt like we were taking extra touches, we were a little slow, trying to hold onto possession when the wise thing would be to dump the ball on the other side of the field and move up. We played a little slow, kept the ball at the wrong times. That made it very difficult for us. Seattle was organized, they kept to their game plan and were pressing us.”

Seattle star Obafemi Martins made his return to the lineup and netted a pair of goals, showing why he’s a world-class striker.

“You’re always trying to do something that makes it difficult for him,” Hall said. “You can’t go out and press, so you try to wait and get big. Sometimes you think you have a decent plan in your head and he’s still able to do something that’s something special. You just don’t want to be predictable. You try to play to your strengths. That being said, when you have a world class striker, they’ll find a way to score goals.”

Despite a recent cold streak, Orlando still has a good chance at sneaking into one of Eastern Conference’s playoff spots.

“Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen,” Hall said. “You watch any number of years, you’ll see teams that get on a run at the right time — those teams are dangerous. It creates these fun storylines. You’ve just got to make it into the playoffs and then anything is possible. Right now, we’re on the outside looking in. There’s nine games left for us and we’ve got a difficult task ahead of us. It’s something we can accomplish. We’re focused on making the playoffs and then making some magic happen.”

With three kids and a move from Houston to Orlando, Hall isn’t able to get back to Gig Harbor as much as he’d like. But he still keeps in touch with Todd Northstrom, the high school coach, and keeps tabs on the Tides program.

“I love going back,” he said. “It’s a fun place for me to visit and I always try to get back there in the offseason. Todd and I still keep in touch. There will be some jokes thrown in here and there. It’s good to stay connected. I wish there were times I could be actively supporting the team and the school, but when I’m all done, I can kind of have a little more freedom with what I do. In the meantime, I’m just keeping tabs from afar.”

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151