When MLS Cup 2012 kicks off ar 1:30 p.m. Saturday there will be a pretty impressive representation of players with Puget Sound connections.
The Galaxy playing roster includes midfielder Pat Noonan, formerly of Sounders FC. The Dynamo roster includes forward Cam Weaver, who was born in Tacoma; midfielder Nathan Sturgis, who played with Sounders FC; forward Brian Ching, who attended Gonzaga and played with the USL Sounders, and coach Dominic Kinnear, who played with the USL Sounders.
However, key guys with South Sound connections might be Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, and Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena.
Hall was born in SeaTac, grew up in Gig Harbor and attended Gig Harbor High School. Arena in 1976 was a goalkeeper for the Tacoma Tides of the American Soccer League before the University of Puget Sound offered him a soccer coaching job that would change his life.
This week I was able to ask each about what they remember from their time in Pierce County. Some highlights:
On his memories of Tacoma: I was a goalkeeper, and my memory was of diving on the infield of that Cheney Stadium. Where they set one of the goals up, I was on the infield, and that was never fun. But my coaching career in soccer really started in Tacoma, being a coach at the University of Puget Sound during my stay with the Tacoma Tides and the Seattle Sounders. I have fond memories: I was married there in Tacoma in 1976. There’s a lot of history with me there, and it was meaningful. One of the great times of my life.
On if he would have inevitably become a soccer coach even without the UPS offer: I would have been a lacrosse coach. To be honest with you, I had those opportunities in lacrosse, which I did do as well. But I never would have had the opportunity to find my way in coaching soccer. It was a really meaningful experience. I learned an awful lot. Recruiting kids as they walked by from classes: It was fun. And then learning how to build a team from scratch and work with young players. It was things that all of us in this profession do, and I had a platform to start being a coach in the sport of soccer. It was very special, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.
On Hall: Tally’s been outstanding. I think he’s turned into a real good goalkeeper. He’s much more experienced now, obviously, after playing consistently over the last couple of year.
Dynamo goalkeeper TALLY HALL
Memories of his first youth championship and how it compares with MLS Cup: It was went I was playing U-13, and it was Harbor FC. It was quite a thrilling match in the final, really. You know, it was just kind of hanging with your buds, and now this is my job and I try to approach it like that. Obviously, it’s the only thing I do, and I get to spend a good amount of time honing my skill.
On what it’s like knowing a championship could turn on any goalkeeping error or moment of excellence: Playing in a game where any action can lead to a successful season or a failed season, and I try to approach every game the same. So, when it’s middle of the season and you’re in a good spot or a bad spot, I’m always trying to be mistake-free. I never like when the team gets scored on. So, here we are with the finals a couple of days away from us, and I’m going to do my best to approach the game the same way. I would think it’s the best way to go about it, and that’s what I try to do.