By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, December 7, 2015
If there’s one characteristic the Portland Timbers’ Rodney Wallace has shown in the past two years, it is mental fortitude.
After recovering from a serious knee injury suffered in the 2013 season, which included a stint on loan with Arizona United SC in the USL, and fighting for a place in the Timbers’ lineup throughout this season, Wallace’s perseverance paid off on Sunday night as he scored what proved to be the winning goal in the Timbers’ 2-1 win against Columbus Crew SC.
“Everybody has their own journeys,” Wallace told Goal.com’s Thomas Floyd. “Me personally, going through the injury, it was just another reason for me to get hungry and to keep fighting. It never slowed me down. Since I came here to this club, the mission was to win championships, and today I can see that we are the best team in MLS.”
Wallace was riding high with the Timbers in 2013 as he recorded seven goals and six assists in the regular season, but a torn ACL in the playoffs saw his year end on a sour note. After rehab, Wallace headed to Arizona for a short-term loan during which he scored once in his two appearances for United.
His dedication upon returning to Portland resulted in him winning the 2014 MLS Comeback Player of the Year award. This year, he recorded seven assists in 23 starts for the side, but it wasn’t until late in the MLS season that he found a permanent spot in the lineup. His performance throughout the playoffs, where he started four contests and had a goal and assist, drew admiration from his teammates.
“I'm especially proud of Rodney,” Timbers defender Nat Borchers told Floyd. “He was kind of in and out of the lineup a good three-quarters of the year, and Caleb [Porter] decided to go with him toward the end. A guy like that, he's a champion. I love playing with a guy like that: He fights, he battles, he's good on the ball and he scores goals, he gets the game-winner – it's incredible.”
Paired with MLS Cup MVP Diego Valeri, who also had a remarkable comeback story this season from a similar injury, it was only fitting two players who embodied the Timbers’ resilience and spirit came up big to help the club claim its first championship.“These guys are humble guys,” Timbers Coach Caleb Porter told Floyd. “They're not weak – they're confident. Can we find guys that are confident and have humility? Those are the type of guys that I want in my locker room.”