OBETZ, Ohio – Just two hours before his team’s match against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, Columbus Crew head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter revealed that defender Giancarlo Gonzalez was flying to Italy to sign with Palermo.
Only six hours earlier, Tyson Wahl found out in an email from Berhalter that rather than the substitute role he'd filled for most of 2014, he would be the starting defender in the evening’s important clash with the Dynamo.
“[Berhalter] had told me to prepare for it anyway, and it sounded like it was most likely going to happen, so I was just glad to get that confirmation,” Wahl said.
While rumors of Gonzalez’s departure had been swirling all month, Wahl wasn’t playing with the first team in training, and admitted that it was a strange situation to change that on the morning of the game.
“It’s not the most ideal,” he said. “That week I wasn’t with the starting group, Giancarlo was getting those reps. So you do want to get those reps throughout the week and know for sure … but I just mentally prepared like I was going to get good news in the middle of the day, and I did.”
But Wahl stepped up and put in a solid defensive performance that included two late sliding tackles to block Houston shots on goal. Berhalter had nothing but positive things to say about the veteran defender after the match.
“We talked about Tyson getting notified that he was starting and us being confident in him and him having 100 starts in MLS, and he showed it today,” Berhalter said. “He was our Man of the Match in the locker room and he got the game ball. I thought that he was fantastic. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of the rest of team for really standing up and putting a good performance in.”
Wahl found himself in a similar situation last season, when the firing of Robert Warzycha resulted in more playing time for Wahl after Brian Bliss took over as interim head coach. But he isn’t looking to compare the seasons.
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“It is similar in one regard, but last year I came off playing a ton more in the first two-thirds of the season,” Wahl said. “But it is similar. I’m a player who’s always been on the brink and sometimes in and out of lineups. Unfortunately, it’s something I’m used to. You never strive for that, but it’s just been the reality. I’m just trying to stay sharp in training and take it game by game.”
One of the more experienced members of a young Crew roster, Wahl says he’s well-equipped to step in on a moment’s notice, and knows he can be an important part of the team.
“I think that’s kind of what’s expected of me,” he said. “I play a position where you’re supposed to be vocal and a leader. I’m a pretty quiet guy off the field, but I’m pretty talkative on the field. So I stepped in there and did my job.”