- - Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tally Hall was a month into his offseason, rested and ready to rehab his surgically repaired right knee with Orlando City, when his plans for 2016 abruptly unraveled.

Although Hall had seen his previous season ended by a torn meniscus in October, the 30-year-old goalkeeper enjoyed positive discussions with the Orlando brass about returning for a second year with the club.

Then the news broke on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving: Orlando and newly hired executive Armando Carneiro — who would go on to leave the club after less than two months — decided to change course. Hall saw his contract option declined, and the two-time all-star was without a team.

“I was extremely surprised,” Hall said. “They indicated they had a new contract for me in the offseason. That’s what they told me, and then the opposite happened.”

Hall returned to his hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington, with his wife and three children. After battling back from a torn ACL in the same knee the previous offseason, Hall took lessons from that experience and methodically regained his strength.

He worked out on his own and spent time as a guest player in the Seattle Sounders’ preseason camp, but it wasn’t until mid-March that the phone rang with a tryout offer from D.C. United.

“It’s a humbling experience, looking at my career so far and looking ahead, knowing I can be one of the best goalkeepers in the league — and you’re watching the first month of MLS from your parents’ house,” Hall said.

“Sometimes you get injured and then you get cut and you’ve got to find a way to get back on a team to be given a chance again. There have definitely been some tough times, but that’s what makes this profession special.”

United (0-2-3) announced the signing of Hall last week after a two-week audition, and the veteran is in contention for the starting spot when the club hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-2-1) on Saturday at RFK Stadium.

With Bill Hamid, the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014, sidelined until at least May following right knee surgery, backup Andrew Dykstra likely out longer because of a back injury and newcomer Charlie Horton recovering from a concussion, Hall offers an established presence to compete against 22-year-old incumbent Travis Worra.

“We thought it was in our best interest to make sure we have cover and competition at the goalkeeper spot,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s no different than any other spot. It’s a week-to-week situation, and we’re always evaluating players and what the best group is to put out there.”

Added Hall: “I’ve always competed against myself and only myself. That will be my job — being the best goalkeeper I can be, and from there it’s a coach’s decision.”

While Hamid is poised to start upon his return, Hall is not a run-of-the-mill depth option. An all-star selection in 2011 and 2013, Hall started a pair of MLS Cup finals for the Houston Dynamo and was a regular in U.S. national team camps during the buildup to the 2014 World Cup.

“He’s putting in the work, trying to get back to the form he knows he can be in and be ready when he’s called upon,” said United defender Bobby Boswell, who played with Hall in Houston. “He’s got experience, he’s calm out of the back and he makes the saves when he’s needed.”

Having called Washington state, California, Denmark, Texas and Florida home, Hall is enthusiastic about his first opportunity to live in “Old America.” He’ll be on his own for a couple months, though, with his family delaying its latest cross-country relocation until the children are on summer vacation.

“Every trade that you see in the paper, that’s not just a guy moving,” Hall said. “It’s a guy picking up his life, it’s his kids getting pulled out of school.”

Coming off two major knee surgeries in the past 19 months, Hall understands the narrative that surrounds him. Couple those injury concerns with his age, and one can grasp why a decorated goalkeeper who started 23 matches last year isn’t guaranteed a starting job in MLS.

But that’s not how Hall sees it. As far as he’s concerned, his best days as a goalkeeper are yet to come.

“I’m 30 but I feel like I still have another level that I can reach,” Hall said. “I’m excited to have the best year of my career this year. For me, I don’t see a reason why that’s not possible.”

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