Former Terp Ready to Compete in Soccer’s Ultimate Event
Photo by Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
It’s safe to say that this Sunday is marked on the Wallace family’s calendar. It’s Father’s Day. It’s Rodney Wallace’s 30th birthday. And it’s when Costa Rica will play its first 2018 FIFA World Cup match, and the former Terp will be on the field, competing for his home country.
“He’s fulfilling a dream of playing on the biggest stage,” says Sydney Wallace, Rodney’s father and an agronomist in the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “There’s none bigger than the World Cup.”
Rodney was 9 when his mother, Sandra, got a job offer from an international company, the Organization of American States, and the Wallaces moved to Rockville, Md., from San Jose, Costa Rica. Rodney, his parents and his sister, Wendy, have always loved soccer.
“He just had a passion for the game,” Sydney says, “a willingness to get up early, do his chores.” He’d adjust which church service he’d attend to make sure he’d have time to practice. “Stuff like that set him aside.”
Before college, Rodney played with the Potomac Soccer Association and the Casa Mia Bays, a club he says helped propel him into UMD’s program, as a handful of his Casa Mia teammates also went to Maryland.
Sasho Cirovski, UMD’s head soccer coach, remembers seeing Wallace play at a coaching clinic when he was 13 or 14 years old. He started watching him more seriously and knew he wanted Rodney on Maryland’s team.
“His mentality is among the best that I’ve had in my 25 years,” Cirovski says.
Choosing Maryland was ultimately a “no-brainer” for Wallace, who played for the Terps from 2007-08. The midfielder recorded 10 goals and four assists and was “instrumental,” Cirovski says, in UMD’s 2008 NCAA championship.
In 2009, D.C. United selected Wallace sixth overall in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. He’s also made MLS stops with the Portland Timbers and New York City Football Club, his current team. He’s played in the Portuguese and Brazilian leagues, and he made his debut for Costa Rica in 2011.
On May 14, the Wallaces gathered around TVs to watch the announcement of Costa Rica’s 23-man roster for this year’s World Cup. Rodney made the cut, making this the third consecutive World Cup with at least one former UMD player competing.
While Rodney prepares to take the field, Sydney and the rest of his family are right behind him, “packed and ready to hit the road.” They’ll be in the stands in Russia to watch the match against Serbia on Father’s Day, just as they were during Rodney’s days at UMD.
“He’s guided me through, I owe him a lot,” Rodney says of his father. “It’s funny, because everybody talks about the dream. But now, I’m here.”
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