BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers are whole once again after the push and pull of a summer laden with international departures.
And it just so happens that their last man back, forward Rodney Wallace, might be the guy they missed most. Wallace, who missed the last three games while he was with Costa Rica for their run to the Gold Cup quarterfinals, has proven to be one of the team’s most important pieces, and exactly what they need heading into Saturday’s game at the San Jose Earthquakes (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“If you look at probably our best games, he was in the lineup,” head coach Caleb Porter said Friday at the team’s practice facility before departing for the Bay Area. “He brings that directness and penetration, a true left winger. I think you see in the way we play when he is on the field we come to life.
"Obviously we’re good without him, one player doesn’t make our team because of the way we play, it’s a team game, but he brings a different dimension.”
Take, for example, Wallace’s last game in a Timbers uniform.
He returned from a previous three-game international team absence to dispatch three assists in Portland’s 3-0 home win over the Colorado Rapids. Wallace has four goals and five assists on the season, both career highs.
“His energy, his swagger, his confidence, he’s got a bit of that panache that I think is infectious to the team,” Porter said.
Wallace played 45 minutes in Wednesday’s international friendly against Norwich City. Porter said he wanted to get Wallace “plugged back in and settled,” and that after a brief slow start he didn’t miss a beat.
“We’ve got the band back together,” Porter said. “We’re a good team regardless because we have a lot of depth and we’ve shown one guy out, the next guy in and we don’t really miss a beat overall.”
It comes at a good time, too, as the Timbers are facing for the third and final time a San Jose team desperate to get results.
“They know this is an important game for them, they don’t want to go 13 points away from us, they want to have it at seven,” Porter said. “This for them I think this is a crucial time. They need to start getting points. And we need to keep getting points.
"So there’s a lot at stake for both teams. … It’s going to be a war, for sure.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.