On the cusp of a necessarily grueling stretch to end 2014, the Dynamo were dealt news on Tuesday that knotted many fans' stomachs. Starting keeper Tally Hall, after attempting to play through an awkward landing that occurred in Kansas City, will have to undergo ACL surgery at the end of the week, cutting his year short with two-thirds of the season gone.
Since taking over the starting keeper role in 2011, Hall has only missed the start in two other MLS matches including a coach-imposed mental health day versus Sporting Kansas City back in June. The absence of Hall is rarely felt by Dynamo fans and, that it comes right as do-or-die games get underway in the hunt for the playoffs, is disconcerting.
Hall has certainly had the most difficult season of his career, allowing a career-high 44 goals with ten less games than previous years. Though, it isn't hard to observe, many of those have been the result of mental lapses and miscues by the Dynamo defensive line. This much was apparent in the improbable 2-0 home loss to a 10-man Kansas City in June that saw Tyler Deric man the goal.
Following three consecutive losses, Dom Kinnear saw fit to mentally rest Tally Hall ahead of the World Cup break. This slotted Deric, playing his first minutes since 2013 Champions' League matches, into the starting keeper role. While that match took shape as a probable victory, SKC's lethal counter attacks and Houston's misfiring defense spoiled the Homegrown player's first MLS minutes since 2012.
That match, though many would be quick to try and forget it, is the lasting impression fans had of Deric as they read the diagnosis on Hall's knee. In truth, Deric is a capable goalkeeper -- one that Dynamo management are lucky to have as backup rather than starting on another leaky MLS defense. Most fans are used to seeing Deric in nearly all non-MLS competition including last year's Reserve league, US Open Cup, and CONCACAF Champions' League. In 2013, across those three competitions, Deric notched four clean sheets in 9 games. In matches that he lost, Deric was rarely the culprit, providing critical saves in the face of weaker backlines and aimless forwards unable to push the Dynamo ahead.
Moving forward, however, Deric will need to be more aware of overcoming weaker aspects of his game in the face of more difficult competition. During the home match against Kansas City, Deric found himself straying from the keeper's box on more than one occasion, needing to clear the ball and race back to his line. While the Dynamo defense did not help make for an easy game, it is exactly these gaps in communication that expose the goal and could prove as punishment to an unfocused line.
Certainly, this remains unfamiliar territory for Deric. With nine games remaining, that stretch of games will become the most consecutive first-team minutes that Deric has received thus far in his career. In addition, each game serves of critical importance for both teams trying to gain a foothold in the often-shifting Eastern Conference standings. Without the playing time of the now-defunct Reserve League, the early-exited US Open Cup, or the unqualified Champions' League, Deric hasn't seen many minutes in total this year.
Finally receiving those minutes in the most vital stretch of the Dynamo season against keyed-in opponents will be a tough task, but one that Deric should be primed for. Sitting behind Dynamo legend Pat Onstad from 2009 and Tally Hall since 2011 has given Deric a perfect position to study staunch and stubborn keepers that help push their team into the playoffs in the season's waning weeks. Having a reinforced defensive backline of David Horst and Jermaine Taylor (who both impressed in Friday's match), Kofi Sarkodie (who won MLS Team of the Week honors), and DaMarcus Beasley with Luis Garrido should give Tyler Deric a vastly improved outlook than what he faced in the early summer.