Tyson Wahl doesn’t exactly consider it a homecoming when he came to Bradenton, Florida, with the Sounders FC for training camp this year.
But it is certainly a familiar place for the Seattle defender.
During his junior year of high school in Newport Beach, California, Wahl was called in to play with the US U-17 Residency Program.
Now back there in camp with Seattle, he is returning to his more comfortable position, playing more as a center back than he had in his first two seasons with the Sounders.
His path to both spots - Bradenton for Residency and the center back role - featured some unexpected turns.
While playing with the Irvine Strikers club team, Wahl played a match against the US U17 Residency team - a squad that featured several former Irvine players on the roster. Wahl showed well in that match and was put on the radar for the Residency Program, earning invitations to several camps in Bradenton in the summer before his junior year of high school.
Then, two days after his high school classes started, he got the invitation to join the Residency Program in Bradenton.
“It was abrupt, but it was very positive in helping my transition into a more serious soccer life,” Wahl said. “I never really had much debate about it. My parents were very supportive.”
He joined players like Chad Marshall, Heath Pearce, Jordan Harvey, Santino Quaranta, Justin Mapp and Hunter Freeman in Florida, training and going to school before returning to California for his senior year.
In that one year, though, he took steps toward becoming a professional player.
“Our club team was pretty competitive so we had a high level of practices and games. But when you bring the top kids at that age from around the country, it is definitely a step up in the intensity,” he said. “That was the first time I saw just how many good players they were around the country.”
Now in his sixth year in MLS and third with the Sounders FC, Wahl is in his most competitive training camp and he finds himself in a position battle at two different spots.
Still competing for playing time at left back, where he made 16 appearances for the Sounders in MLS play over the last two seasons, Wahl is also back in the mix for a playing time as a center back, where he played for the Kansas City Wizards in the three seasons before he joined the Sounders.
“I’d prefer to just play one position and you usually don’t find yourself with an abundance of left-sided players, but on this team we have that,” Wahl said. “It’s good to have the versatility. I’m just going to play wherever I’m told to play, push myself and hope for the best.”
That means a little extra work in training. It’s not often a center back works on his crosses, but Wahl does just that to keep himself sharp at the left back spot.
“I pretty much have to be prepared to play either one,” he said. “Right now, I’m playing a lot of center back, but in my mind I’m still thinking of things that I need to work on as a left back. It’s a totally different position.”