COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It hasn’t been an easy year for the Colorado Rapids' Anthony Wallace, to say the least. Not only did the 24-year-old, finally healthy again after two injury-riddled years, lose out on the starting left back job during the preseason, he had to switch positions in midseason as well.
But now Wallace has a new chance at a new position, and the early results have been promising. The starting left back on the Rapids’ 2010 MLS Cup-winning squad, the New York native has been a regular on the game-day roster at midfield this season, making the bench in 11 of the Rapids’ 12 games, including two substitute appearances.
Despite starting the season at left back, Wallace said that he prefers midfield (his natural position) and, most importantly, he says he’s finally healthy, once and for all.
“On the positive side of things, I was able to stay injury-free the whole year,” Wallace told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “For me, it’s been frustrating at times, but everybody gets that. I’m just keeping my head up. I do feel 100 percent. Starting the season off, I didn’t feel 100 percent, but it was a goal I was working to. It’s going to take some time and some patience on my end.”
Injuries have severely limited the once-promising left back prospect the last two years. A torn Achilles tendon forced him to miss all of last season while knee problems limited him to only 10 appearances in 2011, cutting short what appeared to be a promising future for Wallace, a longtime US youth international who earned a senior cap that year.
But with Chris Klute now firmly entrenched as the Rapids’ left back, head coach Oscar Pareja moved Wallace earlier this season, citing his athleticism and ability to push forward as reasons to shift him to the midfield.
“Anthony has some technical conditions that are difficult to find, and he’s a [natural lefty],” Pareja said. “That side of the game provides a lot of distribution. ... Anthony’s more aggressive going forward than defending. Instead of just forcing him to be a defender, you have a player who can give you versatility in that position.”
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That said, with the season nearly over and midfielders Nathan Sturgis, Hendry Thomas and Dillon Powers all enjoying big seasons on a winning team, Wallace isn’t likely to be handed a significant role this season. But Pareja has been encouraged by what’s he’s seen from the No. 9 pick of the 2007 SuperDraft – perhaps setting up bigger things for 2014.
“There’s some things that need to get better, of course, but I was very happy with Anthony in the reserve game and he has been good,” Pareja said of Wallace, who scored the lone goal in the Rapids' 1-0 victory over Portland in Reserve League action last weekend. “The thing is, Thomas, Nathan and Dillon have been playing well. But Anthony’s production and his level now are good.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.