NEW YORK -- Rodney Wallace opened his account on Sunday, scoring New York City FC’s first goal and assisting on the second in a 4-0 win against D.C. United. Wallace is one of several newcomers to the NYCFC squad who are being celebrated by coaches and teammates as welcome improvements from last year.
“Rodney had a really good game,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “Knowing that he didn’t play a lot of football in the last three months. He’s not 100 percent fit but he will be an important player for us.”
Wallace was a very late addition to NYCFC’s roster but has immediately become a starter at left wing forcing Tommy McNamara to come off the bench in each of the team’s first two games. Wallace’s work on the left wing coupled with Jack Harrison’s on the right is part of a new emphasis by Vieira to improve the team’s defending. Forwards are being asked to drop deeper and close down on opposing midfielders to force turnovers. Wallace said that requires him to be well-positioned behind the ball.
“It’s not so much physical body-wise,” Wallace said. “But physical in pressuring the opponent and making sure we get the ball and being in the right place at the right time.”
On the attacking end, Wallace’s runs down the wing make him an option for NYC’s midfield to play long diagonals and start, support or finish quick attacks. For the first goal, Maxi Moralez found Wallace with a header that started the break. Wallace slowed the attack with a switch to Harrison but he was there to finish after Harrison hit the crossbar. Moralez said having Harrison and Wallace on the wings helps him by creating space for teammates like him to run into.
“Obviously we can do more because of the space they create — it's a good complement,” Moralez said. “They played well and they understand the game so we're going to take advantage of that. They give good space and they also help us in the midfield. It's a combination of everything. I believe they both can be scorers and I hope they keep playing well.”
For the second, Moralez found Wallace’s run down left wing and Wallace turned provider for David Villa who headed home the first of his two goals. Wallace only played 65 minutes for NYCFC, about the same as he did against Orlando City SC, before McNamara replaced him. Both players have an established relationship with left back Ronald Matarrita and Wallace will likely play with Matarrita in World Cup qualifying for Costa Rica over the next two weeks. Once Wallace is match fit, he will have more playing time to develop the understanding needed to take NYCFC to the next level.
“We’ve been working a lot on our triangles and our relationships. Today was a complete game and we showed what we could do. We set high standards for ourselves and it makes it harder for us to get better, but we have that potential.”