If Rodney Wallace’s confidence was going to get crushed, what transpired in the opening minute of the second half of New York City FC’s 3-1 victory over Atlanta United Sunday surely would have accomplished it.
Three times the forward fired a close-range shot at the enemy net and three times his attempt was cleared off the line.
Undaunted, Wallace, 28, demonstrated great patience and persistence. Within little more than a minute, Wallace struck for the winning goal and assisted on the insurance tally before 25,605 at Yankee Stadium.
“This is difficult for every soccer player,” said captain David Villa, who scored a goal after the team extended his contract earlier this week. “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 started to have confidence and he scored.”
The victory moved City (5-3-1, 16 points) into third place in the MLS Eastern Conference. Atlanta, a tough expansion team, fell to 3-4-2.
“The performance today was amazing,” Villa said. “When we play like that, it’s difficult for any team to beat us.”
Wallace helped create Villa’s 17th-minute goal, his sixth of the season. Carlos Carmona tied it in the 39th minute, taking advantage of a poor clearance, to set up a remarkable six-second sequence in the 46th minute.
Standing on the left side of the penalty area, Wallace powered a close-range shot that Tyrone Mears, standing on the goal line, headed out. Wallace tried again, but goalkeeper Alec Kann tipped the ball high into the air. The ball again went to Wallace, who volleyed it on net, but Leandro Gonzalez Pirez cleared it out of harm’s way.
“You just let it go, use it as a fuel and move forward and try to get another one,” Wallace said.
Which he did in the 60th minute, slipping home an Ethan White feed, just in front of the net. A minute later, Wallace set up Maxi Moralez, who beat Kann from 6 yards for a 3-1 advantage.
“He showed how tough he is and how strong he is in his mind because he covered a lot of ground,” coach Patrick Vieira said of Wallace. “He is always at the right place to score the goals or help the team defensively. His work ethic is fantastic.”
As it turned out, so was his mental toughness.