Getting To Know Rodney Wallace

Defender moves past mistakes, focuses on successes

Rodney Wallace Profile, Timbers vs. FC Dallas 4.17.11

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

MLS All-Star candidate and Portland Timbers defender Rodney Wallace has had his ups and downs this season. There was the brilliant strike in the home opener vs. Chicago Fire back on April 14 as a high.

And there was the unfortunate handball against New York Red Bulls more recently. 

“Something like that, something you can’t obviously control, it gets you down for a little bit,” said Wallace three days after the event. “But I have to maintain my focus and play on with the game.”

It is that ability to look past a mistake and on towards the future that has served Wallace well.

Wallace was born in Costa Rica and then moved with his family to Rockville, Maryland when he was nine. He attended the Bullis School in the D.C. suburbs—a school that counts Steve Armas of the Columbus Crew and poet/musician Henry Rollins amongst its alumni.

Playing in high school, he caught the eye of Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, who had him on his radar a long time. Cirovski remembers a “scrawny, 13-year-old” Wallace doing one of his clinics. Later, the player seemingly put on15 pounds and three inches in one summer and had an obvious appetite for the game.

“I could tell from the first day of recruiting that Rodney was a bigger talent than his resume showed,” Cirovski said.

Cirovski, who has watched 70 percent of the Timbers games so far this season, says of his alums Wallace as well as teammate Jeremy Hall, with whom he coached to a 2008 NCAA National Championship, “I’m over the moon with happiness that they’re playing.”

The handball is something he expects Wallace to have already put behind him.

“He’ll take it hard for first 24 hours, but he’s a tough kid, “said Cirovski. He doesn’t go into a hole; he’ll come out swinging next day of practice.  He’s always been good about proactively responding to adversity.”

With the Timbers, Wallace stands out for his work rate, an asset Cirovski remembers well.

“It started from his first second on campus, he was a guy I couldn’t get off the field. Even when he plays in a small pick-up game, he goes all out all the time.”

And he was the practical joker on the Terrapins team. But he was deadly serious as a player.

“He’s the kind of player I love. You can see why John Spencer loves him," said Cirovski. “You don’t have to ask him to work a bit harder.”

Wallace started in college as a left-sided midfielder, but his coach converted him to a defender. He scored some crucial goals for the Terrapins in the air, but coach Cirvoski worked with him on defense. Now, however, he sees the roles reversed. He expects Wallace’s distribution to improve as he gets to know the left side midfielders he works with, and to start coming forward even more.

Cirovski calls him a delight to coach, a tough kid, very courageous, and hard to contain. Also focused, a tuned-in defender and a great competitor.

Wallace has great respect for Cirovski and is pleased to hear of his continued interest. College seems far behind him now, though.

“It’s a lot different now, you’re dealing with grown men,” Wallace said.“John Spencer is demanding the best from you and there are things you’re expected to already know. He’s not going to hold your hand.”

As for being a joker, Wallace is modest. “It’s important to keep the locker room as lively as possible. You don’t want to come in and have it be a place where you don’t want to be. We’re still people, and we still have fun.”    

One thing’s for certain, you can be sure Wallace will stay focused.

Said Wallace, “Our main goal is to make it to the playoffs, but we’re taking it game one game [at a time].”