Among the many talents that Rodney Wallace has demonstrated for New York City FC this season, we discovered two more in the club’s 3-1 victory over Atlanta United Sunday.
Patience and persistence.
Now, those two words don’t exactly sound like they go together, yet the 28-year-old New York City FC forward showed his best resolve on both fronts.
In an amazing six-second sequence in front of the Atlanta goal in the opening minute of the second half at Yankee Stadium, Rodney Wallace was denied three times on goal-line clearances.
Now, that’s not something you see every day.
And that might just break a forward’s heart or confidence for the rest of the match. Instead, it just fueled Wallace’s desire to score a goal. Which he did, the game-winning tally while helping set up the insurance goal.
“You just let it go, use it as a fuel and move forward and try to get another one,” he said.
“Obviously, you always wanted it to go in. It was positive because it gave the whole team energy and I think from that moment on we pressed and we were able to pretty quickly get the second goal.”
Let’s set the scene just prior to that bang-bang-bang sequence.
Both teams had just come out of the locker room with hopes of unlocking a 1-1 halftime deadlock. Atlanta, the surprise of the Major League Soccer as a first-year expansion team, was looking to win its third road match of the young season. NYCFC’s goal was to get some goals to secure a vital three home points.
Less than a minute into the second half, Wallace went through a personal hell for a forward.
On the left side of the penalty area, Wallace fired a close-range shot that defender Tyrone Mears, standing on the goal line, headed out.
Seconds later, Wallace tried again, but goalkeeper Alec Kann tipped the ball high into the air.
The ball came back to Wallace, who smashed a volleyed. This time, however, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez finally cleared it from the goalmouth and out of harm’s way.
The men of Week 10.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 8, 2017
“Our objective was to go out and change things around and I think everyone responded accordingly,” Wallace said. “They did a great job of clearing the first one off the line. The rebound came to Maxi [Moralez] and I was able to follow up on a header. They cleared that. I had a volley and they cleared that off again. Credit to them. That set the tone for us to go out there and try to get the three points.”
It took 15 minutes before Wallace could make his point so NYCFC could accrue those points.
In the 60th minute, an Ethan White feed went off his foot and into the net to give City a 2-1 lead and his third goal of the year.
A minute later, Wallace turned playmaker, sending the final pass to Maxi Moralez, who beat goalkeeper Alec Kann from the goal box for some breathing room and a 3-1 advantage.
“This is difficult for every soccer player,” said captain David Villa, who tallied NYCFC’s first goal in the 17th minute off a Wallace feed. “When all the things are good, everybody plays good. You need to keep going when things are not good and Rodney is the example today. He missed the first chances, he didn’t go down and he start to have confidence and he scored after.”
When the team signed Wallace earlier this year, City head coach Patrick Vieira felt he got a versatile player who could play either at defense, midfield or forward on the left side (he was used at left back when fellow Costa Rican international Ronald Matarrita went down with an injury last month). Vieira might have gotten more, a talented, gritty forward who is willing to get his nose dirty and then some.
“There’s a reason why we brought him to our football club,” he said. “His work ethic is fantastic. He’s putting the team before himself. He’s doing the dirty work for the team, and in the end he’s getting rewarded with the goal. He’s worked really hard and I think it’s not just about them two. If you want to win against a team like Atlanta, you need people to be at their best and today every player was at their best and we put out a really strong performance today.
“He showed how tough he is and how strong he is in his mind because he covered a lot of ground and he’s always at the right place to score goals or help the team. His work ethic is fantastic. When you look at his career, he won the title in this country. He went abroad. He had a tough time, and the majority of people might give up and do something else. He believed in himself and kept working hard in training, and there’s a reason why he’s in the starting eleven.”
When told about what his coach’s comments, Wallace returned the compliment, which you would expect from a team player.
“Patrick and the rest of the staff did a great job of specifically giving us feedback as individuals,” he said. “They do it as a team but they nit-pick on every single player, too. They realize what works for them and what doesn’t. In my case, I think that they’ve been basically coaching me to get into the box and make goals because they know that I can do the dirty work and I always do the dirty work. But it’s about that finished product, whether it’s the crosses, whether it’s the assists or whether it’s the goals. Each day these guys are making each and every one of us better.”
Certainly better enough to overcome the opposition clearing certain goals out of harm’s way and having the resilience to score the game-winning goal minutes later.
— Rodney Wallace (@rodwallace22) May 8, 2017