HARRISON, N.J. – When your job is predicated on a handful of make-or-break moments, it pays to have a short memory. That and a sense of humor.
Fortunately, Tally Hall isn't lacking either. Both certainly came in handy on Wednesday night after the normally sure-handed Houston Dynamo goalkeeper spilled a routine cross that allowed the Red Bulls to take a 23rd-minute aggregate lead with a spot in the Eastern Conference Championship on the line.
Uncharacteristic? Absolutely. But abject failure – sometimes even embarrassingly so – is just part of the gig, according to Hall, who might not have been quite so good-natured had the Houston not found a way to pip New York 2-1 in extratime.
“It’s a sinking feeling, but I say it all the time that eventually as a goalkeeper you’re going to look like an idiot,” he told reporters. “You’re just going to look stupid. People are going to look at it on TV and say, ‘What was he doing? What was he thinking?’
“You’ve just got to know that if it happens early or late, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to finish the game.”
That was the same message delivered by his teammates in the aftermath of Bradley Wright-Phillips' tap-in courtesy of Hall’s butter fingers.
He made the right decision coming out to claim Lloyd Sam’s low cross to the front post, but the catch was simply “poorly executed,” the ball squirting off the wet grass and out of reach. But just as quickly as the tide of the series shifted in New York’s favor, Hall was reminded why playoff soccer tends to go Houston’s way in the end.
“A couple teammates came up to me right away and said, ‘Tally, we’re going to get you back on this one. We’ve got all game to cover for you,’” he said. “It was true.”
Said center back Bobby Boswell: “We’re not there to yell at guys. Guys know when they made a mistake. We’re an honest group. I just said, ‘Hey, we’ll pick you up,’ and luckily we were kind of gifted a goal. After that, Tally stood on his head. Yeah, he makes that mistake, but he also saves some balls that probably nobody else does.”
The gift came courtesy of Ibrahim Sekagya, with Brad Davis applying the finish, but the game-saving stops – two superb reaction saves on a Tim Cahill deflection and a Giles Barnes header on his own net, plus a blind deflection of Thierry Henry’s bicycle kick in stoppage time – are what the Dynamo are used to getting from their ‘keeper.
“He’s not going to go and hide. We need him,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He knows that, and he showed up afterwards. It didn’t bug him at all.”
Not for long, at least. Not with more of the same coming his way.
“Another cross came in the second half, I caught it and I look up at, I think it’s Bobby Boswell, and I say, ‘Not this time,’” Hall said, chuckling at the memory. “You’ve got to have almost a sense of humor. You’ve got to be even-keeled because mistakes happen. The important thing is this team has a will to win like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I think that’s why the jersey we wear has two stars on it. That’s why we’re still in the fight for that third one.”