Scroll down to see the interview
Interview #45- Tony Walls
Tony Walls is an American professional soccer player currently signed to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship. Walls grew up in Wisconsin and had a highly successful youth career in both soccer and basketball, committing to the University of Marquette to both sports. After decommitting from Marqutte, Walls went to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where he was a star. During the summers, he also played for one of the PDL’s top sides, the Michigan Bucks. From there, Walls was drafted by the Chicago Fire and played for them for a season. Since then Walls has played for many clubs including the Rochester Rhinos, Saint Louis FC, the Chattanooga Red Wolves, and now, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. During his offseason from the outdoor game, Walls plays professional soccer in the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) and is a top player in the league. A team player who is a true leader and a proven winner, Walls fits the definition of a top professional.
The Tony Walls Interview!
1. Growing up in Wisconsin, what was your youth career like?
Well surprisingly growing up in Milwaukee, there was a lot of talent in the area!! Through my 13 and 14 seasons my club team, then FC milwaukee , emerged as one of the best teams in the nation. We won the state cup 5 out of 6 seasons, and our u16 and u17 seasons, we won regionals (tournament of all the Midwest state champions) back to back season, finding ourselves in the top four teams in the country for those two years! We finished third in 2006 and second in 2007, losing the national championship in penalty kicks.. heartbreaking! We followed up in 2008 losing in the regional championship, coming very close to one of maybe two or three teams to three peat as regional champions! I was called into a national camp in 2007 as well, the last camp before the u17 World Cup, unfortunately I did not get selected for the roster which was then in South Korea! So overall a youth career filled with wins! Haha
2. How were you initially recruited by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay?
Well my college story is a little unique to say the least. So my dream was to play both soccer and basketball in college. Basketball was my first sport and I played throughout high school, simultaneously playing both club soccer and aau basketball. I actually drove from Milwaukee to Arkansas for an aau tournament summer of 2007, and at the end of that tournament we drove straight to Dallas for the 2007 final four national championships! Crazy times haha. So heading into my sophomore year of high school, I had already verbally committed to Marquette university to play both sports right. Then I believe it was spring of my junior year the basketball coach at Marquette (then Tom Cream) had left for a job at Indiana, and the new coach was not going to allow me to play both sports, so then I made the decision to attend UWGB with a handful of my club teammates who were already headed there!
3. Overall, how was your collegiate career?
I had a pretty good college career, we made the NCAA tournament only once though, which pains me, we should’ve made it at least twice, and were very close to an at large bid my junior season! I was new-comer of the year , and second team all league in my freshman year (2008) and was named to top drawer soccer third team rookie all American. Sophomore through senior year I was first team all league, and named conference player of the year in 2011. Sophomore season (2009) was named first team all region, with pretty much the whole Akron team at the time, (which was one of the best college teams I’ve seen to this day) third team all region my junior and season seasons! Finished 22nd in top drawer soccer’s “top 50 seniors” list
4. While in college, you also played for the Michigan Bucks of the PDL. Describe your time with the Bucks.
Michigan bucks was a great experience! It felt like a pro environment with all the guys there from top programs across the country! Gary Parsons and Dan Duggan and those guys really care about the guys that play for them and really took care of me there , and I still keep in touch with them and guys from that team till this day!
5. In 2012, you were drafted with the 47th pick of the MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. How were you feeling after being drafted by the Fire?
I was excited!! Obviously that’s the moment you work for, aspiring to play in the MLS!! I knew I was going to get an opportunity to prove myself and earn a contract in preseason, and that’s all I could ask for!! Would I liked to go a little earlier in the draft, absolutely, but I knew all I needed was a chance and I’d make the most of it!
6. You sent the 2012 season with the Fire. What did you learn while playing for the Fire?
It was great, learning from pros that have World Cup and a wealth of not just mls experience but experience from top leagues around the world was a priceless experience! How they train on a daily basis, and carry
themselves off the field was something I soaked in!
7. In 2013, you spent the season with the Milwaukee Wave of the MASL. How was your transition from the outdoor to the indoor game?
2013 was my first of now 7 indoor seasons I believe! Playing for my hometown was an amazing feeling, and the Milwaukee wave organization is one of the best in the league to this day, and have a rich history of winning in the indoor league! I was able to learn from one of the best indoor coaches to ever coach, Keith Tozer, and I learned a ton from him, and really started to like the indoor game.
8. How was your first professional indoor experience with the Wave?
My first season went well, we just missed the final I think, but I was playing defender and started every game I believe, earning a spot on the all newcomer team!
9. After a season with the Waves, you returned to the outdoor game and signed with one of America’s most historic clubs, the Rochester Rhinos. How did this opportunity come about?
My good friend Jc banks, who's like my brother, I played with him on my club team for four years, in college, a few pdl teams, the wave my first year and in Rochester in 2014, spoke to bob and got me a trial, I handled the rest!
10. With the Rhinos, you were named the team's best defender. How were your two years in Rochester?
Yes , 2014 was a solid year, la galaxy II put us out in the players. I think I led the team and minutes and was named defensive mvp. Although 2015 was a very special year for my Rochester team. After 2014, I was named captain for 2015, and I was determined to win. Bob assembled a very talented team and won. Our final record was 15-1-10 I believe, losing only one match all season, winning the regular season and playoffs, I think there’s only two or three teams in usl history that have one both. But to lose one match in 40 competitions, including open cup and preseason, is tough to do in any league. So that was a special year for me, I was named first team all league, and a finalist for league mvp, where I just fell short!
11. From 2016-2018, you played with the Cedar Rapids Rampage. However, the club dissolved after your last season. What was playing with Cedar Rapids like and how were you feeling after hearing the news the club folded?
Cedar Rapids was a cool experience. I linked back up with my current coach at st. Ambush, Hewerton there, the season before I came they were 5-15, my first season 2016-2017, we finished 15-5, and made the playoffs. We made the playoffs again in my second season as well. We had a really hungry group that competed day in and day out.
12. What’s the toughest part about the indoor game?
Toughest part of the indoor game is just adapting to the different rules and intricate tactics and styles of play. For example, changing on the go, using the boards, defending the boards and power plays to name a few..
13. While with the Rampage, you signed for St Louis FC of the USL Championship. How was your time in St Louis?
Overall, I had a good stint with St. Louis. My 2017 team was very talented and good in possession, we came up just short of the playoffs, but I definitely think we were talented enough to be in. I think I ended up 3rd on the team in minutes that season after signing a month into the season. 2018 I was a part of the only team in stlfc history to make the playoffs, that was An exciting achievement for the club and glad I did my part in that. I’ll always have love for stlfc.
And Jeremy Alumbaugh and coach preki that brought me in and put their faith in me.
14. What’s your greatest memory from your days with St Louis FC?
I would say scoring an equalizer in the very first game of the season, on the road, in the 77th minute! Helped set the tone of resilience for the season I think!
15. You mentioned Coach Preki, what did playing for an MLS legend mean to you?
It was awesome, I thought Preki was a good manager. Good at managing players and personalities and very knowledgeable about the game! Anytime your manager was also a great player, I think it’s a little extra motivation to perform consistently, to try and impress.
16. From 2018-2019, you played with the Ontario Fury. How was your tenure with the Fury?
They’re in California just east of LA. It was a good experience, a lot of talent on the team. And I actually got one of my teammates from Ontario Fury, to LAFC, that’s how good I thought he was, so I had to make a few calls. He went to preseason last year tore it up and never looked back!
17. How have you managed playing for two clubs at once for the majority of your career?
Well first off, it forced me to be a good communicator, especially when it’s time to transition from either sport. It’s important to communicate with my owners/coach/teammates, and let them know I’m grateful for the opportunity, but unfortunately I have to head outdoors. They usually are understanding because they understand the majority of players aspire to play professional outdoor > pro indoor.
18. Last season you played with the Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club of the USL League One. How did you think the USL did with their debut of the USL League One?
The USL did a good job with the USL League One honestly. Especially for an inaugural season, they tried to run it as professionally as they could and did well. Obviously everything can improve in areas, but a solid first season!
19. What’s the most intimidating stadium you’ve ever had to play at?
Intimidating probably isn’t the word used to describe these stadiums but I’ve played in a lot of nice ones. We played @philly union in the open cup in 2015, took them to penalty kicks at their stadium!
20. Who’s your greatest role model and why?
Kobe Bryant and Steven Gerrard were my role models growing up. My town favorite sports, the leadership they display on the court, the passion they display for the game and loyalty to their teams was very admirable.
21. After your season with the Red Wolves, you returned to St. Louis and played with the Ambush of the MASL. With St. Louis, you scored more goals than appearances made. What was this last season like for you?
It was a good season, I wish I could’ve stayed and finished it out to help my team win a few more games. But our coach put together a good group and I was happy to help lead them anyway I could!
22. You’ve traveled around the country quite a bit. What’s your favorite city you’ve been to so far?
Favorite city I’ve played in would have to be Chicago , but honestly most of the cities I’ve lived in tend to grow on me, even Chattanooga! Ontario was very nice, Nashville is nice, Atlanta, Charleston, I’ve been to a lot of cities so that’s kinda tough!
23. You recently signed with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for the upcoming 2020 USL Championship season. How has your team been staying busing while in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yeah we were excited to get the season started as well, I think we’ll have a very solid team. During quarantine, it’s actually been nice to get some proper rest, between indoor and outdoor I don’t get too much rest. That was only for about two weeks, then I varied between distance running and sprints, and mixed in some ball work. And now Monday Wednesday Friday we have a team zoom workout, so we all do that as a team and a sprint circuit provided by our trainer.
24. In your own words, who is Tony Walls?
Tony walls is a hard working guy, who’s passionate and competitive. He loves basketball as well, and enjoys helping people of all ages reach their dreams.
25. Any last words for the readers?
Only you can maximize YOUr own potential! So go work for it, be brave, and work your a** off to be the best YOU!
A backstory... Question number 16: I mistaken Ontario, Canada with Ontario, California... that's why Tony says it's east of LA lol! I just wanted to say this and point it out to show we all are human and make mistakes! Stay safe and stay healthy everybody!
A huge thanks to Tony Walls for the amazing interview! A true professional, Tony is a top class guy and I wish you nothing but the best this upcoming season! It's been great having the chance to work with you! Stay safe and stay healthy!
Photos via https://pittsburghsoccernow.com and https://www.timesfreepress.com
A huge sports fan who loves to learn about all sports, from every corner of the world!