Wahl's MLS journey continues

For Tyson Wahl, the suitcase is always half full.

Ever the optimist, the seven-year Major Soccer League veteran is thankful to have experienced his dream of playing professional soccer. But playing now for his third different team in eight months, the fourth franchise of his career, he admits that logistics can sometimes be his least-forgiving opponent.

"My fiancée and I have gotten pretty good at packing up boxes and moving around," said Wahl, a reserve defender for the Colorado Rapids, who acquired him in a trade on July 13.

Wahl came to Colorado from the Montreal Impact, who traded for him in November, following three seasons with the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders plucked the former UC Berkeley standout in the 2008 expansion draft from the Kansas City Wizards, who selected him 19th overall out of college in 2006.

Immediately after joining the Rapids, Wahl embarked on, what else, a week-long road trip. Now "home" in Colorado, he is living in a hotel and trying to relocate from Montreal, while reviving a career that has hit an unexpected lull.

Wahl had his best professional season in 2011, starting 22 games for the Sounders, netting his only MLS goal and collecting two of his three career assists.

Things began well in Montreal, where he started the first 11 matches of the season. But with a 3-5-3 record in those matches, Montreal elected to shake up the lineup, leaving Wahl on the bench.

"A couple of weeks later, I found out they were looking to trade me," Wahl, 28, said. "The coach informed me they were looking to move me and three days later ..."

Wahl said he was excited about the move to Colorado, as he and fiancee Allison Illingworth, who are planning a December wedding in Laguna Beach, both shifted more than 1,600 miles closer to their families in Newport Beach.

But while he had played in two matches heading into his first home game with the Rapids on Saturday, Wahl said coaches have told him his current role is to provide depth off the bench.

"My role as a player in this league has been to compete and fight hard for playing time," said Wahl, whose 82 career MLS appearances include 70 starts. "It has never really come easily to me. I feel like I have always been right there in the mix. Being benched or being a substitute is not something, as a competitor, that you accept. But as our league has improved, it has become more difficult to stay on the field. Day-in and day-out, I'm still fighting that challenge. Rather than affecting my confidence, I'd say it makes me want to stick around with one club for a while."

Sticking with strikers is his primary focus, but he said finally being able to stick the ball in the net last season was a special moment in his career.

"I always figured, I'd score, but I thought it would be on a rebound or a header off a corner kick," said the 6-foot-2, left-footed left-side defender. "But to score the way I did [bending the ball inside the far post on a free kick] made it really spectacular."

The tally was honored as MLS Goal of the Week and was among 10 nominees for Goal of the Year, Wahl said. But the celebration that followed his first goal since college was somewhat less memorable.

"I think it went down as the worst celebration," Wahl said. "I hadn't scored in six years, so I had nothing prepared and a lot of my friends gave me flack for that. I think I just ran around and screamed a little, until some of my teammates caught up to me. I think it was pretty genuine, but I'm not much of a showman."

Wahl said he would love the chance to continue to show what he can do. And he points to the fact that several teams expressed interest when Montreal put him on the trading block as an endorsement of his value in the league.

"I feel like I'm a pretty physical outside back and a good passer," Wahl said. "I can cross balls well, I'm good in the air, I'm bigger than most outside backs and stronger than most outside midfielders. I think a lot of teams would be looking to add a left-footed defender."

But Wahl said he is also beginning to consider what he will do following his playing days.

"I think I will definitely coach at some level," said Wahl, who was an assistant coach for the Newport Harbor boys' team in 2007 and said he has also coached in Seattle and Kansas City. "Whether that is club or what have you. I've definitely spent some time thinking about the future and what I'll do next. But at the same time, I'm so busy right now just getting moved and trying to focus on my current soccer career.

"Personally, I've been in and out of apartments and rented a few houses. But I have not purchased a house. There's a joke in the league that once you decide to buy a house, you'll get traded the next week."

At this point, however, another trade would most certainly be no laughing matter.


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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