If you were to ask Danny Waltman about how he got started in professional soccer, you’d hear a tale of humbleness and modesty.
”I was a Sounder before it was cool,” Waltman chuckles.
He’s not wrong, either. After a career at the University of Washington, Waltman signed on with the USL Sounders in 2004 as the backup goalkeeper to Preston Burpo. Eager to continue developing and prove himself, he began to look for more opportunities to get minutes.
”That season, we lost to Montreal in the final. A lot of the guys on the team had a connection to indoor and said it would be perfect for me; Coach Schmetzer hooked me up with a tryout in Chicago. I didn’t even make it back to Seattle; I changed my flight that day. I sort of regret not going back to the Sounders, but things have worked out well for me since then.”
It’s hard to argue, as he made the First Team All-Rookie with the Chicago Storm. Even more impressively, his indoor career has spanned fourteen years, winning both a championship and an MVP award along the way with the Detroit Ignition. He then signed on with the brand new Missouri Comets and became a stalwart as their starting goalkeeper for five seasons. Along the way, he made a name for himself for not just his play on the field, but his crowd-pleasing antics.
”When I was a rookie in Chicago, I thought that if I could find a way to get noticed I’d stand out more. I grew my hair out and wore the short pants. I had the idea that if I could do a backflip off the boards then that would help, so I set some mattresses against the wall in my apartment and gave it a try. It eventually became my signature. I’m just a big showoff at heart and I love to entertain people.”
It may be difficult to understand why such an established player would choose to leave, but Danny’s Pacific Northwest roots and history with the original Tacoma Stars runs deep.
”My first experience with the Tacoma Stars was when I was about seven years old. I went to a Stars soccer camp in Gig Harbor; as part of it, we all got a free ticket to a game at the Tacoma Dome. We all loved it so much that my parents bought season tickets at halftime.”
”We were die hard fans ever since. My dad eventually became the GM and I was one of those little kids hanging around practice. The players were like my big brothers - it was awesome. When the Stars folded, it was terrible for me. As a kid, I’d pretend to be playing for them... suddenly there are no more Stars? I couldn’t believe it.”
However, the childhood dream never quite seemed to go away and Waltman kept his ear to the ground. When he heard rumblings of a team coming back to the Pacific Northwest, he took hold of the opportunity.
”I added a clause in my contract that if the Stars ever came back, I could leave to play for them. When (the Stars) returned, Missouri was pretty cool about it and granted my release.”
Since his return to Tacoma, he has made it a point to stay connected with the fans. While the backflips off the boards may not be as common anymore, he will go up into the stands and drum with the Satellites (Tacoma’s supporter’s section) after each win.
”I love playing for the Stars and the atmosphere (of ShoWare). It’s like hockey and soccer mixed together. It’s intense; the crowd’s right on top of the game - I can hear every person in the arena yelling at me. After the games, we invite the fans onto the field to meet us, take pictures, and get autographs. What other sport lets you do that?”
On Friday, March 2, the Tacoma Stars take on the Kansas City Comets at 7:35pm at ShoWare Center in Kent. A win will clinch a playoff spot for the Stars.