Tyson Wahl announced his retirement today after a 11 year career in MLS. Wahl had suffered two concussions this season and is still dealing with symptoms surrounding the latest concussion. In consultation with the medical staff, Wahl chose his long term health and stepped away from the game.
Wahl is the third Crew SC player to suffer a concussion this season, Matt Pacifici was placed on the season ending injury list in July while Wil Trapp suffered a concussion that kept him out of the lineup for a second consecutive season. Wahl decided the cost was too great; the risk to the rest of a hopefully long and healthy life is too much.
The topic of concussions in soccer deserves close examination, but that's not the focus of this article. I'd like to take a moment to talk about Wahl the player. An All-American and a U.S. Youth prospect, Wahl had talent. That turned into a spot on the Kansas City Wizards and 32 appearances over three years coming out of college. As a young spot starter with potential to be better, you are the kind of player that expansion teams pick. In 2009, the Seattle Sounders picked up Wahl and he'd make 39 appearances over 3 seasons. After 2012, he'd bounced to the expansion Montreal Impact for 11 games and four more with Colorado.
By the time Wahl reached Columbus by 2013, he'd played for four teams, making 86 appearances over seven seasons. He was a journeyman. In sports, that's a bit of a putdown. It implies that you can't hold down a spot until you are on the move to the next team. Originally, a journeyman is someone who is no longer an apprentice, they are a skilled worker who practices a trade, a professional. There is a value in being professional; in always being prepared and ready. Wahl was never the first name in the starting lineup, but he was always ready when the coach needed him.
The journeyman found a home in Columbus. Tyson Wahl played four years with Crew SC, longer than any other stop in his career. He nearly doubled his previous appearances with 74, with 64 starts. Joining in 2013, Wahl made an instant impact on a forgettable Columbus team with a career high in appearances (25) and starts (24).
Wahl survived the roster turnover when Gregg Berhalter took charge, likely because Berhalter saw the value of having a trusted veteran to turn to when needed. He wasn't first choice in a remade defense centered around Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez. However, when Gonzalez made his move to Palermo in August 2014, Wahl then started 10 straight games to close the season as Crew SC climbed the standings.
Again in 2015, Wahl was second choice as Emanuel Pogatetz was expected to grab the starting job, but the Austrian faltered, failed to adapt to Berhalter's system and the rigors of MLS. Wahl once again stepped in, playing 11 of 12 games, until Gaston Sauro was brought in and was fit. After another stint on the bench, Wahl stepped in to start a pivotal playoff game, matching up against New York's high powered attack when Sauro was suspended.
Never established as a starter in the league, Wahl still was able to amass 138 starts over 160 appearances in his career. It sounds cliche, but he was there every practice to put in the work to get better. He stepped in when needed, knowing that he was keeping the spot warm for the next big acquisition. That's the value of being a professional, putting in the work, day after day, even if there's a good chance it doesn't pay off, Tyson Wahl was ready when he got his shot.