BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – A few months ago, it was a long shot that Tony Walls would make an MLS roster.
Now, nearly four months later, the defender has beaten the odds after the Fire took him with the 47th pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft by signing a contract in March. The Wisconsin-Green Bay alum made his Toyota Park debut on Saturday when he came on in the 69th minute in a 1-0 exhibition loss to Aston Villa.
“It felt good," Walls told MLSsoccer.com. "It’s my first game playing professionally, playing against such good team. It makes you better, it forces you to get better.”
Saturday’s game was the first time Walls and his fellow Fire rookies, defenders Austin Berry and Hunter Jumper, played in an international friendly. After jumping up a level from college to MLS, Berry thought Saturday’s game against the English Premier League side was beneficial to his young career.
“It’s really valuable to see the next level, how the speed jumps up even more,” Berry said. “It’s very important for a guy like me or Hunter, guys who haven’t had a whole lot of experience yet.”
Klopas happy in defeat
Saturday’s starting lineup included only five players who normally start, and Logan Pause, Pável Pardo and Sean Johnson sat out altogether.
“I got what I wanted from the game,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “[We got] an opportunity for some guys to continue to have some rhythm since we don’t have a league game this week, an opportunity for some other players to get minutes in and make sure that they’re in a position where they are ready to help out.”
The Fire have gone back and forth between Jay Nolly and Paolo Tornaghi at the backup goalkeeper position, and they both played a half on Saturday.
“I was pleased with both keepers and guys like Hunter, Corben [Bone], Dan [Gargan],” Klopas said. “So that was good. We wanted to rest certain guys that were carrying knocks. It was a good game and we played a very good team. You can see the certain qualities that they have. It was good for a lot of the younger guys to play a team like this.”
On Saturday, Steve Kinney dressed for a game for the first time since he ruptured his Achilles tendon late in the 2010 season, although Klopas decided against playing the outside back.
“Going into it, we felt that the opportunity to get him in may be there,” Klopas said. “In the end, we felt it was better to get his first game in during a reserve match.”