The long wait is almost over.
In August 2014, Goalkeeper Tally Hall, then with the Houston Dynamo, tore his ACL in a game against Sporting Kansas City. It was a tragic ending to a difficult season, as the Dynamo stumbled to an 8-12-4 record after reaching the MLS Cup Final in 2011 and the Eastern Conference Final in the two previous years.
The injury promised to keep Hall out for 6 to 9 months - but Orlando City traded for the MLS All-Star without any hesitation.
Nine months have passed, and Hall appears to be nearing his return.
“I feel very comfortable in practice. I feel like I can explode going both ways… my movement isn’t hindered at all,” explained Hall on Wednesday. “My job is to work hard and try to be the best goalkeeper on this team. When coach deems that to be the case, then I’ll be playing.”
Coach Adrian Heath hasn’t offered a return date, but did say, “In the next week – 10 days we feel as though we need to get him a game.”
Should Hall’s return fall in that timeframe, it will be trial by fire on his reconstructed right knee. In the span of five days, the Lions will host last year’s MLS Cup champion following a trip to Washington, DC.
The potential change in goal isn’t to be blamed on Donovan Ricketts, who has performed valiantly in his teammate’s absence. Ricketts has led the Lions through a tough start to the club’s inaugural campaign, posting a 2-4-2 record, including a shutout of his former club in a 2-0 win in Portland.
“For me, it’s been an opportunity to refocus, reenergize, get a different mindset on how I approach the game… I think what I’m doing now is going to prepare me to be a better goalkeeper than what I was doing a year ago,” said Hall.
Lions fans all hope he can recapture his form from his days with the Dynamo. In 2011 and again in 2013, Hall was named an MLS All-Star after starting all 34 regular season games in both years. In 2012, Hall started all six playoff games and all but one regular season game.
Recapturing his form would be a welcome achievement, but Hall understands that this season is about more than that for himself and Orlando City.
“When I got here the team’s motto was ‘Defy Expectations’. I thought it was perfect, it felt like the right spot for me so I get a bit of a grin when I hear that because I’ve been living by that for a long time.”