Playing the first game as a rookie in Major League Soccer is never easy. But playing only 40 minutes before you’re shown the door is even tougher.
Union midfielder Toni Stahl is trying to move forward after he was sent off in his first-ever professional match last week in Seattle, and has come to terms with an incident that left him with a lesson learned.
“It’s kind of too late to analyze those things,” Stahl said of his ejection after receiving two yellow cards before the break. “Referees are always right, even when they’re wrong. Those are the things I’ve got to learn from. I need to learn from my mistakes and move forward.”
A native of Tuusula, Finland, Stahl was taken 17th overall in the SuperDraft in January and was brought in to be an instant starter with the Union. A four-year player at the University of Connecticut, the 24-year-old was as ready as any rookie to take the field in the league’s opening weekend.
Being the realist he is, Stahl understands that his second offense was a foul and that he was deservedly shown the showers.
“I can understand the second call, that was a foul,” Stahl said of his second yellow in the 40th minute. “Both teams had multiple situations that should have been whistled or carded, but that’s just the name of the game. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to go.”
Playing at center back came as a bit of a surprise for the usual midfield anchor, but the lanky Finn was pleased to play anywhere manager Peter Nowak had in mind.
“To be honest, I didn’t really care where I was going to play,” Stahl said. “I think I’m that versatile of a player that I can play pretty much anywhere. It was definitely surprising, but I was very excited. I just wanted to play, it didn’t matter where.”
One of the biggest helps for him was defensive partner Danny Califf who, according to Stahl, does a great job of keeping his teammates in place and shouting out effective orders.
“It was good as long as we heard each other because it was so loud in there,” Stahl said. “I think we communicated very well, especially him. I’m more of a quiet guy as I just do my job. He’s the one who directs and moves people around. He does a fantastic job of that.”
But Califf wasn’t able to save Stahl from getting sent off. The rookie will sit for the team’s home opener against D.C. United on April 10.
“It’s definitely upsetting,” Stahl said. “I just have to go back in practice and prove myself to my coaches and the team.”