BEAVERTON, Ore. – After Rodney Wallace scored two goals to deliver a 2-1 win for the Portland Timbers on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes – keeping MLS Cup Playoff hopes alive in the Rose City – head coach Caleb Porter said his team has “missed” the 26-year-old winger.
Missed for good reason.
Wallace was coming off a breakout 2013 season, resulting in seven goals and six assists, when he ruptured his ACL in Portland’s Western Conference championship series against Real Salt Lake. It was an injury that kept him sidelined until late June this year. Nine starts since his return, Wallace has scored four goals and added an assist – with some of his best performances, Porter said, coming over his last few games, including a goal in Portland’s 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Aug. 30.
“He was a big player for us last year, not even him chipping in goals but his fight and his edge and his pressure and his defending,” Porter said after the San Jose victory.
Even though the Timbers offense is one of the highest scoring in the league, having already eclipsed last year’s total of 54 by two goals with three games remaining in the season, the production has mostly come from strikers Fanendo Adi (nine goals), Maximiliano Urruti (nine), Gaston Fernandez (who Porter calls more of a second striker and has scored seven) and midfielder Diego Valeri (nine).
“With Rodney now stepping up and scoring goals, it’s helping make us a more of a diverse team in the attack,” Porter said following Monday’s training session at the team facility. “And now you have to start worrying about the wingers, which opens it up for the other guys. So I think bottom line, we need production out of our wingers, and Rodney is stepping up and bringing that.”
His performance Saturday couldn’t have come at a bigger moment, either.
The Timbers came into the game trailing the Whitecaps by four points for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West, with the win leaving them within striking distance heading into Wednesday night’s rematch at home against the Quakes (7:30 pm PT; ROOT SPORTS).
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The Timbers were also without Valeri, who was serving a one-game suspension for caution accumulation, and captain Will Johnson, who is out for the season with a broken leg. And while sometimes Porter may remind his players of a moment’s magnitude he said, “In this case, the guys just know.”
“It’s a huge win, but at the same time, we’re not really surprised by it because we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity the whole season,” Wallace said. “So this is just another result that shows what type of team we are.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.