Wallace’s Return a Boost to Timbers’ Lineup

Goal against Chivas USA was first since tearing his ACL in 2013 MLS playoffs
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, August 21, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

When Rodney Wallace got the ball from Fanendo Adi in front of the Chivas USA goal in the 39th minute of Portland’s match with the Goats on August 9, he did what he’s done so often for the Timbers.

And one of the biggest cheers of the season at Providence Park soon occurred, as Wallace put the ball into the net and gave Portland a 2-0 lead, which also ended up being the final.

That goal was the pinnacle of Wallace’s comeback from the serious ACL injury suffered during the 2013 Western Conference Finals against Real Salt Lake. It had been a steady road back for the Timbers’ winger, as he worked hard to rehab his knee and be ready by midseason.

Of course, the Chivas match wasn’t his first one back for the Timbers since the injury. That happened on June 19, when he started for the Timbers against Orlando City U-23s in the US Open Cup. The roar from the Timbers Army when he came out of the players’ tunnel was big, and he played 80 minutes in the 3-0 win.

Those came after he played 2 matches on loan with Arizona United of USL Pro. He played the 2nd half at Sacramento on June 7, then on June 11 scored in his second match against Dayton and played 85 minutes. Those 2 matches helped convince the Timbers staff that Wallace was ready.

Wallace made his 2014 MLS debut on June 27 against Sporting Kansas City. He started and played 65 minutes in the 1-0 loss to SKC, looking decent at times. But his playing time then shrank, playing no more than 27 minutes over the next 4 MLS matches. He played 60 minutes in the US Open Cup quarterfinal against Seattle, but otherwise his playing time in July was fairly minimal.

Then Caleb Porter started him at Los Angeles, and Wallace played the entire match against the Galaxy. He again played 90 minutes in the home match versus Chivas USA, and was rewarded with the goal everyone seemed to be waiting for.

Of course, Wallace’s injury changed the Timbers’ look on a number of levels. The picking of Steve Zakuani in the MLS Re-Entry Draft was greatly influenced by the injury, as it was hoped that a healthy Zakuani would be a capable fill-in until Wallace was fit to play again. It also could be said that the lack of a healthy Wallace using his quickness to disrupt defenders was a factor in the slow offensive start that Portland had to the 2014 season.

The injury also ended any hope Wallace had of being a part of Costa Rica’s World Cup plans. While he played minimally for the Ticos during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, there was still a chance he could have been a part of the Costa Rica roster in Brazil.

How Wallace is used for the rest of the season will be of interest. He only played 53 minutes in the 1-1 draw at New England, which was also his third straight start. Three nights later, he came in for Zakuani and played almost 30 minutes in Portland’s 4-1 win over Alpha United to start their CONCACAF Champions League campaign.

That Porter subbed him early in New England, and then used him as a sub in Guyana, hints at the possibility of Wallace playing an increasing role on both the MLS and CCL fronts. His return added to the depth among the Portland forwards, and was needed when Darlington Nagbe was out injured. While he might not play 90 minutes often, Wallace can be seen as a starter and as a sub, depending on matchups.

His partnership with Adi is also developing into one that Porter is showing more confidence in. They were together to start against both Chivas and New England, and were subbed out seven minutes apart against the Revolution. In Guyana against Alpha United, Wallace came in 8 minutes after Adi, and together they helped in continuing the pressure on the AUFC defense. Adi scored soon after Wallace came in after an Alvas Powell pass, and Powell scored late on when Wallace’s cross was misplayed and came to him.

Rodney Wallace will be seeing more and more playing time as the Timbers’ season hits a climax, and likely will play a major role on both Portland’s playoff run and their hopes of getting out of the CCL group stage and into next spring’s knockout stage. Depending on injuries and his growing partnership with Adi, the impact Wallace could make in the final 10 weeks of the season could be massive.

NEXT UP: August 24 – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, Providence Park, Portland, Oregon. 5 p.m. EST, ESPN2.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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