CARSON, Calif. — Thousands of United States fans left The Home Depot Center with a frown after the Americans 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Friday night, but one Maryland family could not help but smile.
Costa Rica-born but Maryland-raised Rodney Wallace scored the game-winning goal in his international debut for los Ticos. The goal came in the 65th minute of play, just four minutes after the Portland Timbers defender was brought into the match with the orders from head coach Jorge Luis Pinto to “get things going.”
Orders received and orders carried out to a tee as Wallace scored off a rebound after a big save from US ‘keeper Tim Howard, sprawling out low to guide a header into the net to seal the victory.
However, Wallace’s contributions were not solely limited to the offensive front; he was also able to help lift Costa Rica’s defense as they foiled the US’ efforts for an equalizer.
Although Wallace’s first international goal came against the country where he’s spent most of his life, the Timbers defender stated that there was no extra motivation to score against the US.
“Not at all. It’s the game of football, the object is to win and today we got the victory,” he told reporters after the match. “It’s a great honor [to represent Costa Rica]. It’s something special and I’m never going to forget this moment and I hope that there are more in the future.”
A green card holder, Wallace still needs to wait for several years to get his American citizenship despite coming to the United States at the age of nine. The long wait ultimately led the talented 23-year-old left-sided midfielder/defender to choose to represent Costa Rica rather than wait to join the US.
The Costa Rican national team is one that Wallace is familiar with, as his cousin, Harold Wallace, made 100 appearances for los Ticos and appeared in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
Wallace has been well received by the Costa Ricans, a team which boasts three other MLS players: Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake), Michael Umaña (Chivas USA), and Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls). As Wallace looks to solidify a regular spot on the squad ahead of World Cup qualifying next year, he admits that he already feels like a member of the team.
“They’re awesome and a great group of guys,” he said about his national team teammates. “They’re a humble group and it was easy to fit in. I hope to have more bright moments with them in the future.”
The Timbers defender and the rest of the Costa Rican team will look to create another one of those bright moments in their next match on Sept. 6, when they travel to Quito to take on Ecuador.
Adam Serrano writes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano