PORTLAND, Ore. – The day before the Portland Timbers dismantled the Colorado Rapids in a 3-0 victory Sunday at JELD-WEN Field, head coach Caleb Porter said Rodney Wallace fit perfectly into his plan for that game.
Once again, Porter was proved overwhelmingly correct.
Wallace, who had freshly returned to the Timbers after missing three games while on international duty with Costa Rica, recorded three assists against the Rapids, a single-game MLS record for the club. It was the latest breakout performance in what is becoming a season of revelation for the former left back.
Playing in a more advanced role on the left wing, Wallace now leads the team with five assists and has four goals in nine starts, all season highs.
“[Wallace is] having a breakout year; humble kid,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “He found a position there on the left and has taken advantage of every opportunity. I think it goes without saying that we’re a better team when Rodney is on the field.”
Porter said Wallace provides a chance to play a more direct game against a struggling Rapids side, whereas in the previous game against the LA Galaxy – a scoreless draw – forward Kalif Alhassan offered more possession attributes.
And Wallace was certainly direct. In the 12th minute, he broke free down the left flank off a restart and fired a cross into the box for striker Frederic Piquionne for a headed goal.
Portland struck again right before halftime when Wallace brought down a goal kick, held the ball at the left corner of the box and found a charging Johnson for the second goal.
Another Wallace cross led to the third goal, from second-half substitute striker Ryan Johnson.
“I think it’s just confidence and feeding off the guys around you,” Wallace said. “I think we have a great team with a bunch of players who make it easy for you to go out there and play a good game. I think that everybody on the team is playing on cue right now and just feeding off each other.”
Wallace’s return came at just the right time for the Timbers, too. Sunday’s game was their seventh across all competitions in nearly a month’s time. And Wallace came in rested, having not featured in three Costa Rica World Cup qualifiers.
And with Wednesday’s quarterfinal match of the US Open Cup on the road against FC Dallas (9 pm ET, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Wallace’s services will almost certainly be welcomed.
“It feels good,” Wallace said. “It feels good to be part of a winning team. A team with a lot of drive and a team that wants to keep going forward.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.