Rodney Wallace: “For me it would mean a lot to be part of qualification. It speaks volumes in where I am in my career.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
Rodney Wallace is only a point away from realizing a goal — personal and for his country.
If Costa Rica secures one point from its final two matches of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, the Central Americans would clinch a spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“For me it would mean a lot to be part of qualification,” Wallace said in a recent email interview from San Jose, Costa Rica. “It speaks volumes in where I am in my career.”
The 29-year-old veteran has enjoyed a pretty decent career, but hasn’t participated in a World Cup, at least not yet.
A member of the Portland Timbers’ 2005 MLS Cup championship side, Wallace become an important part of New York City FC’s success in Major League Soccer. City is in second place in the Eastern Conference, closing in a clinching the final seed. Wallace has contributed four goals and six assists as a tireless worker at left forward.
The Ticos’ World Cup success is nothing but astonishing, given the size of their country. Costa Rica has about five million inhabitants as it is on the verge of reaching its fourth World Cup in five attempts.
And we all know what transpired at Brazil 2014, when the Costa Ricans reached the quarterfinals and pulled off a perfect tactical plan against the favored Netherlands before falling.
While that accomplishment is considered the most impressive in Costa Rica soccer history, Wallace felt that was then and this is now.
“As a country we are proud of what was accomplished in 2014 but now it’s a new cycle and Russia is the goal,” he said.
The Ticos (4-1-3, 15 points), who are in second place behind Mexico in the Hex, have to worry about getting past fifth-place Honduras (2-3-3, 9) at Estadio Nacional Friday night before visiting third-place Panama (2-2-4, 10) Tuesday night. Barring a collapse of monumental proportions and two upsets, they should secure a berth in Russia.
Wallace certainly is confident.
“We expect to win,” he said about Honduras. “They are a team that plays hard but we play harder and smarter.”
The 5-11 Wallace is listed as a midfielder on the Costa Rican roster. He also can play defense, so his versatility makes him a useful player for club and country because he can fill in anywhere on the left side.
Regardless where he will play for the Costa Ricans, Wallace has been impressed with the team’s roster and depth.
“We are a complete team from top to bottom,” he said.