Rodney Wallace (right) battles Chris Duvall for the ball. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
BRONX — Only three games into New York City FC’s season, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to figure out who is one of the team’s most pleasant surprises and biggest bright spots — one Rodney Wallace.
Wallace, who can play any of the three positions on the left flank — defense, midfield or forward — has been more anyone could have asked for.
As a forward, he has been a part of three goals in as many matches this young MLS season, finding the back of the net twice and setting up a third. His second goal came in the 1-1 tie with the Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The 28-year-old Wallace celebrated his call-up to the Costa Rican national team the best way he could — earning man of the match honors in the MLS encounter.
“Game by game, I am starting to find my rhythm, starting to find my confidence,” he said.
To appreciate his production three games into the season, the 6-foot, 155-lb. Wallace has accrued 21 goals and 23 assists in 162 MLS matches, playing mostly as a defender or midfielder.
Both of his goals this year — Wallace tallied the other one in the 4-0 thumping of D.C. United last week — were scored the same way as he wound up in the right place at the right time in the penalty area. Saturday, he pounced on a rebound of an Alex Ring save by Evan Bush and put it away.
“He deserved it because of the way he’s working for the team,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “He’s a team player, and I was really pleased with his goal because he’s working really hard when he’s on the field.”
Wallace? He said it was “just being alert, following the plays. I think that we today we created a lot of chances. It’s important for us to attack from different angles.”
He then mentioned Jack Harrison, David Villa and Alex Ring, or “from whoever it is I think that it’s important for us to keep attacking. For me personally, getting inside the box and making sure I follow things up. That’s one of my qualities as well.”
Vieira has appreciated those qualities and a work ethic that has been second to none.
“He loves the game. He’s working hard in training in the game,” he said. “He’s got a really good attitude in the dressing room. All the players love him. I like his character. He’s did really well in the league. He won the title, so he knows how to do it. He’s got good experience as well, but I think what I really love about him is the way he’s competing when he’s on the field and he can score goals.”
Now, it’s off to Costa Rica along with NYC FC defender Ronald Matarrita for a pair of vital World Cup qualifiers. The Ticos visit Mexico March 24 before hosting Honduras March 28.
The Central American side leads the CONCACAF hexagonal with a perfect 2-0-0 mark and six points, so it is in excellent shape heading into Games Three and Four out of the 10-game schedule. The top three teams earn automatic berths to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the fourth-place side will play in a playoff.
“There’s a lot of confidence within myself,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of confidence within the group as a whole. We know that there are two important games. We’re going to go out there and get the results away from home; our main focus. That’s very important with us.”