Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley said he wasn’t going to start signing players to add to the club’s roster for 2020 season until it made sense.
On Wednesday, the Hounds announced a signing that appears to make a lot of sense — especially to Lilley.
Pittsburgh has signed defender/midfielder Tony Walls to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2021 season, pending USSF and USL Championship approval.
— Tony Walls II (@TWalls20) January 15, 2020
Walls captained Bob Lilley’s 2015 Rochester Rhinos championship team, which lost just one game over the course of the entire season (17-1-10). He most recently suited up for Chattanooga Red Wolves SC of USL League One in 2019, playing 24 matches during his lone season for the club.
“Tony is a very versatile player who will bring quality experience and toughness to our roster,” Lilley said. “He’s a player that competes well and knows how to win.”
Over the course of his three-season stint (2014-16) with the Rhinos, Walls played in 58 games and added six goals and three assists. During the Rhinos’ 2015 championship season, he was named All-League First Team as a midfielder. After his career in Rochester, Walls competed for Saint Louis FC for two seasons (2017-18) and helped the club to its first-ever playoff appearance in 2018.
During his career at the USL Championship level, Walls has totaled 98 appearances, eight goals and three assists.
Walls also has played indoor, and is currently with the St. Louis Ambush, where he’s scored 13 goals this season. The indoor season runs through late March, so we haven’t received word if he’ll be with the Hounds in camp or not.
The Wauwatosa, Wisconsin native was selected by the Chicago Fire in the third round (47th overall) of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft after he completed his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He spent the entire 2012 season with the Fire, appearing in the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Michigan Bucks.
Early Takeaways on Tony Walls Signing
More than any other player, Tony Walls embodied that record-breaking Rochester Rhinos unit that won the 2015 USL Cup. A tough-as-nails player, and now as a veteran, can be a key ‘glue-guy’ who will provide quality depth for the Hounds in both the midfield and along the back line, where he has featured later in his career.
It’s pretty clear, Walls is a guy that Lilley wanted to bring back to play for him.
Having been the captain on Lilley’s USL Cup winning side in 2015, and a player who fully knows what he’s getting into when playing for the veteran coach, can only be a plus in terms of bringing on some leadership to this club that will need it.
Walls has been a tenacious player, and never one to shy away from a tackle on the field or challenge in the air. Last year in Chattanooga, he was issued eight yellow cards in 24 matches (playing more than 2,100 minutes). Under Lilley in Rochester and when in Saint Louis, he only accumulated a total of nine yellow cards. In his last USL Championship appearance, with Saint Louis, Walls was sent off with a red card in a weird exchange in the 21st minute of a second round Western Conference playoff match. You can read more about it here.
He’s also the type of player who will let his teammates know when they don’t go all out.
“When maybe the level’s not as high as we want it to be (in practice), he’s the one that’s either saying something or stepping up his level of play to show guys where we need to be at in order to get better,” Brandon Miller, the goalkeeper on that Rhinos Cup winning team once said. “He’s a shutdown midfielder. I have complete confidence in him that he’s going to break up every attack that’s coming our way.”
The Hounds roster may have some carry over (with eight returnees), but also with the need to transition to having new players along the back line, it will be helpful to have a veteran presence in the back.
With the Hounds losing both Joe Greenspan and Tobi Adewole, Lilley needed to find someone who could help anchor things in the back. What will be interesting to see how he utilizes Walls along with Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Ryan James and what types of players he’ll look to sign to play around those three veterans in the back.
The question will be how much does Walls have left in the tank? He dropped down to League One last year, and he’ll be 30 this year, so the core of the ‘Rhinohounds’ that are here in Pittsburgh who won a USL Cup in 2015 will be in their 30’s now. Lilley clearly believes that Walls can help, and that should be something that Pittsburgh soccer fans hope will be the case.
Roster breakdown for 2020 season:
With the signing of Walls, Riverhounds SC has 10 players under contract for the 2020 season.
Forwards (3): Steevan Dos Santos, Lukas Fernandes, Mark Forrest
Midfielders (4): Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Dani Rovira, Anthony Velarde
Defenders (3): Ryan James, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Tony Walls