The Patient Game: How Tyr Walker Stepped Up Big For Atletico Ottawa
At just nineteen years old, Atletico Ottawa’s Tyr Walker made quite an impression against league-leaders Pacific FC last weekend.
The defender put in a solid shift during his first-ever start, locking in team of the week honours following a fantastic shift as a centre-back – and that’s one he’s waited patiently for, having forgone this year’s university sports eligibility to remain with Atletico Ottawa through to the season’s end.
Walker first stepped onto the radar of Atletico Ottawa fans back in March, when he procured an equalizer against UD Sanse in a preseason clash. The Carleton Ravens defender made good on a U SPORTS deal the following month, officially joining the team in April.
It took him 159 days of patience to get his first start, having made two added time appearances in the entire season prior. With Diego Espejo out for the match, the door opened for Walker to earn an unexpected start against top-of-the-table Pacific. While he was nervous before kickoff, he performed admirably to help his club not only secure a clean sheet, but steal three points right in Tridents territory.
“I still don’t seem to realize how much has happened,” the youngster reflected in a French interview with Le Droit. “It’s incredible to have been able to help my team get all three points in my first game against a tough opponent. On top of that, we had to travel all the way across Canada to play this game. It’s really rewarding to come away from this game with a result.”
Atletico Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez described Walker’s debut performance as consistent, with the youngster avoiding mistakes and showing a strong nature on the pitch that was true to himself. He left the pitch having completed four clearances, winning six of his nine duals and making three big tackles.
“He had every reason in the world to be nervous about his first start against a good club, but he gave us a lot of stability,” added the gaffer, who describes that the 19-year-old has having come a long way since his arrival from St. Anthony’s Futuro Academy earlier this year.
“In the beginning, I missed every pass!” laughed Walker. “Everything was new. The game was faster. The guys were stronger. The passes I’d made at university level or with the Futuro didn’t work anymore. I had to relearn how to pass with professionals.”
“He’s had quite an evolution since his first day with us,” confirmed Gonzalez, who always had faith in the improvement that came to be.
“Right from the start, he showed that he had a special talent inside him. He was slow to demonstrate it, but little by little, he started to show it. He’s heading in the right direction. He will now have to continue to use what has brought him success: working hard, staying humble, and not paying too much attention to what is said about him in his entourage!”
Born in Russell, a three-year stint in Belgium as a child saw him take a serious interest in soccer. When his family returned back to his hometown, he enrolled at the Futuro Academy to hone his skills.
If that academy sounds familiar to Ottawa fans, that’s because it’s the same proving ground that saw Antoine Coupland make history for both Ottawa Fury and Atletico Ottawa. Coupland now plies his trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps 2, but Walker – who knows him from way back – still keeps in touch.
“He’s one of my best friends to this day. When I saw that Antoine was playing professional soccer with our city’s team, I saw that it was possible for me too. It became my goal to follow in his footsteps.”
That’s something that the club has been working hard to push, with Drew Beckie hoping to instill a harmonic pathway up to the club through Ottawa’s local sides. Walker is one of the latest to progress through this route, but he’s hopeful more locals are inspired by his own path.
This fall will see the defender return to his studies at Carleton University, though his commitment to remain with Atletico Ottawa through to the season’s end means he won’t be eligible for the upcoming U SPORTS season.
It seems, for now, that his gamble to stick around the CPL side in the hopes to spotlight himself are paying off.
As for what’s next, Tyr isn’t getting ahead of himself: he’s taking things one game at a time and just wants to keep learning from his more experienced teammates.
“I’m also looking forward to playing my first game at TD Place,” he admits. “I was in the stands when Antoine was making his Fury and Atletico home debuts. I saw the fans’ reception as they applauded a local product. I can’t wait to experience the feeling with my family and friends in the stands.”
It remains to be seen if Walker will get an opportunity to experience that at the club’s next home match, which comes as a psuedo-rematch of last year’s CPL Final with Forge coming to town on August 26. Ahead of that, however, Carlos Gonzalez might hand the youngster another opportunity to impress away to Valour tonight.
Source: Le Droit
Header Image Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League