In October, Orlando City traded allocation money to the Houston Dynamo for two-time MLS All-Star goalkeeper Tally Hall. The trade, which had been agreed upon prior to the announcement, gave the Lions their goalkeeper for the future. However, injury postponed that plan, so Donovan Ricketts was brought in to replace the injured Hall. And Hall's return has brought something that Orlando City was lacking, leadership from the goalkeeper position.
Following the trade agreement with Houston, Hall suffered a debilitating injury as he tore his ACL. Possibly the worst injury a player can suffer, Hall was expected to be out of action until June. With the all-star now out for several months, the Lions needed a replacement for the first part of their inaugural MLS season. That replacement became the veteran Ricketts who Orlando City selected from the Portland Timbers with the first pick in the MLS Expansion Draft.
Even before Hall's first start, there was a noticeable difference between the two goalkeepers. Before each game, the players huddle together near midfield for one final team talk before dispersing to their normal positions. For Orlando City, there was always one player missing -- Ricketts. While the other 10 were gathering, arms around each other, Ricketts was in the goal mouth checking his nets.
That's not the case anymore. Prior to his first game against the LA Galaxy, Hall was right in the middle of the team huddle. Not only is Hall in the huddle with the other players, he can be seen leading the final team talk. Whether it's true or not, that gives the impression that while Ricketts was a bit of a loner, Hall is one of the team and a leader in the dressing room.
Hall's leadership is not restricted to team talks either. During Adrian Heath's weekly coach's show on Tuesday night, the head coach was asked about the team's back five (four defenders and goalkeeper). Heath immediately talked about Hall being a reassuring presence to the team and praising his communication skills.
These are integral skills for a goalkeeper not to be overlooked. Earlier this season against the New England Revolution, it was a lack of communication between Ricketts and right back Rafael Ramos which resulted in the opposition's second goal and likely cost Orlando City at least a point.
As Heath stated Tuesday night, having Hall back in the lineup is reassuring to his team. While often credited to a goalkeeper, clean sheets are a team effort. It takes all defenders as well as the goalkeeper to achieve such a feat. And having trust in the goalkeeper is just as important as a goalkeeper trusting his defenders.
For weeks Orlando City fans have been asking how much longer they had to wait to see Hall return to the field. Not only was this because of his ability, but also for his leadership. It's a quality that coaches cherish in their number one. It's also something that had been heard about Hall from his days in Houston and something that was lacking in Orlando. But just two games into his return, Tally Hall's leadership is already something noticeable for Orlando City.