Q & A: Camp Rookie Wallace No Stranger to National Team Setup
A former member of the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Wallace has represented the U.S. at the U-18 level and played in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2009 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. The call-up caps a whirlwind year for Wallace that included a mid-season trade from FC Dallas to Colorado, and the MLS Cup title won with his new team against his former team, a trade to expansion Portland and then a return to the Rapids roster only a few hours later. Through his wide range of experience in the professional and international ranks, the 21-year-old son of Jamaican immigrants appears to be taking it all in stride.
ussoccer.com: How did you first get into playing soccer?
Anthony Wallace: “My dad got me my first soccer ball when I was two years old, and he put me in organized soccer when I was four. Ever since then I couldn’t get away from it.”
ussoccer.com: In looking through your rise through the youth ranks, you really are a product of the system.
AW: “It’s true. I started in ODP at the state level, went up to regionals, and then got invited to play with U-15 National Team by Manny Schellscheidt. That helped get me into Residency.”
ussoccer.com: What did you take away from your time in the U-17 Residency Program?
AW: “I had two great coaches there, first John Ellinger and then John Hackworth. They really did a great job of creating a good environment and helping you understand what mentality you needed to continue to move up the ladder. They incorporated a lot of things that the full teams are doing so we would prepared and not be overwhelmed if we got the chance.”
ussoccer.com: We understand you also turned into a pretty good tennis player.
AW: “We had a lot of free time and the courts were all close by, so we practiced a lot. Jozy Altidore and I used to challenge the kids from the Bollettieri Academy. We won a lot of matches. I think we surprised them with our athleticism.”
ussoccer.com: After Bradenton, you were in with the U-18s and eventually made it on the roster for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada that made it to the quarterfinals. What was it like to play in your first big tournament?
AW: “It was a great experience. I knew going in that I wasn’t going to be a starter. We had so many more guys that had a lot of experience. I just wanted to be ready and do my part if I got called on, and I wound up playing games.”
ussoccer.com: With so much time with the youth national teams, do you feel like you were prepared and knew better what to expect coming into camp with the full team?
AW: “No question. From the time with the youth teams, you know that the training sessions are going to be sharp and intense, and you have to bring a good work ethic. You can see with some of the guys here who haven’t been around this type of environment that they aren’t used to the level of accountability on the field; that you have to be able to do things right and consistently.”
ussoccer.com: Has it also helped that you know so many of the guys here?
AW: “I think that has made the transition even smoother. Most of the guys here I’ve either played with or against. I even played against Eugene Starikov, back when he played with the Clearwater Chargers and I was with HC United.”
ussoccer.com: One of those guys is Marvell Wynne, your teammate in Colorado. What’s he like as a roommate?
AW: “Oh, that’s an experience. We are roommates on the road with Colorado. I always look forward to rooming with him, because there’s something different every day. He does play Fallout 3 all the time. Sometimes it’s like I’m not even in the room!”
ussoccer.com: You went through an interesting this season, being traded by Dallas to Colorado and then winning the championship against your former team. That’s a quite an experience.
AW: Obviously it worked out great, but at the time it came as a shock. I didn’t expect it to happen, especially at that point in the season. From that day I found out until two weeks after, everything was a blur. From moving to getting to know teammates and coaching staff, I had to adjust very quickly. It’s like starting over in the middle of the season. It’s definitely the best thing that could have happened to me.”
ussoccer.com: There must have been quite a range of emotions when you won MLS Cup.
AW: “It was such a sweet feeling. Of course I had ex-teammates and friends on Dallas, so that part wasn’t easy, but it was still very satisfying.”
ussoccer.com: And then a few days later the next rollercoaster hits, with Portland picking
you in the draft and the Rapids trading back for you hours later.
AW: “At the time, I was running on about three hours of sleep. I was at a friend’s house at eight in the morning, and I started getting text messages saying congratulations on the move to Portland. I’m thinking ‘Oh man, I have to start all over again.’ Of course a few hours later, to my relief, I had a talk with the GM of Colorado and he told me they traded back for me. At that point, I was so tired it barely hit me.”
ussoccer.com: To cap it all off, you get your first call up to the full team. How did you find out?
AW: “Strangely enough, there was something wrong with my emails so I never got the message from the national team. After a few days, the general manager from the team called to tell me I was invited to the camp because she hadn’t heard from me. It was a dream come true. You never know if that call is ever going to come. I told my dad when he got home from work. He had the biggest smile on his face. He was more excited than I was!”
ussoccer.com: You had a lot happen in the last year, particularly for a young player. Anyone give you any particularly good advice?
AW: “Actually, it was my dad. When things weren’t going well in Dallas, he reminded me to keep my head up, work hard and not let the distractions get to me. He told me things would get better. Turns out he was right.”