Anthony Wallace's New Role
Defender Anthony Wallace was one of the youngest members of the U.S. team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada, one of only five players born in 1989.
Though he wasn’t penciled in as a starter in the team’s first game against the Korea Republic, he made the most of his opportunity against Poland, helping the team to a 6-1 victory in one of the most lopsided world championship games in U.S. history. Wallace would go on to start each of the remaining three games: the epic 2-1 win against Brazil, an overtime thriller against Uruguay in the Round of 16 and the heartbreaking overtime loss to Austria in the quarterfinals.
Now, in his second cycle under U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen, Wallace has taken on a different role as one of the oldest and most experienced players on the roster that will compete at the 2009 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
“In a sense, leadership comes with the territory of being one of the returning players and having played in both qualifiers and the World Cup,” said Wallace, now 20 years old. “There is also definitely more of a sense of responsibility just as a starter. In the last cycle I wasn’t a consistent starter.”
After graduating from the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency Program, the St. Petersburg, Fla., native attended the University of South Florida for one year before signing with Major League Soccer. The ninth overall pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas, the third-year defender has made six league appearances to date.
“I think that being part of this team has helped groom me into becoming a good pro, because Thomas [Rongen] and the other coaches always treat us like professionals,” said Wallace. “Being part of this team has definitely built up my confidence and I hope that will push me into a starting position with FC Dallas this year.”
Now that he has made 17 international appearances at the U-20 level, Wallace has worn the captain’s armband several times since the start of the current two-year cycle and has taken a leadership role on and off the field. He is a self-proclaimed leader by example, a player who is quiet by nature but who leaves everything on the field.
“Being in the situations that I’ve been in, that have pushed me to the limits and really tested me has really helped me bring something to this team,” said Wallace of his previous world championship experience. “It helped because of how I was able to deal with those situations – the environment, field conditions, nerves and things like that. It’s all stuff I’ve been through and that I now know how to handle.”
Wallace believes that even though this team is different from the one he played on two years ago, it can go on to do something special. First up, the team will attempt to qualify for its seventh-consecutive trip to the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is in Egypt from Sept. 24-Oct. 16, 2009.
If the U.S. U-20s are able to earn a berth as one of 24 teams in Egypt in the fall, the fun-loving defender knows that the team chemistry will be responsible for carrying them.
“The strength of this team is our togetherness,” he said. “Everyone is pretty close, there are no cliques. We all know how to laugh together, work together and play together and those things will prove to be important to our campaign.”
The U.S. will open that campaign on March 6, taking on Jamaica at Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago. Rongen’s squad will face Honduras on March 8 and round out group play against El Salvador on March 10. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. The top two teams will also move on to the regional semifinals.