On Wednesday afternoon the Portland Timbers traded their rights to Rodney Wallace to New York City FC in exchange for $75,000 of 2017 general allocation money and $50,000 of 2018 targeted allocation money.
Wallace, 28, appears poised to return to MLS after a year abroad with FC Arouca in Portugal’s top flight and Sport Recife in Brazil’s first division. Wallace failed to break into the team at Arouca, but made an impact as a left wingback during his time at Recife.
According to reports out of Brazil, however, Wallace and his family failed to adapt to living in Brazil, and desired a return to the United States. After a protracted contract standoff, Wallace and Recife reached a buyout agreement, freeing the Costa Rican winger to rejoin MLS.
It appeared for a while as though Wallace could return to the Timbers, but on Wednesday a Timbers source told Stumptown Footy that the preseason injury to centerback Gbenga Arokoyo and the resulting necessity of signing an additional starting central defender created a need for salary-cap space. And, according to the source, the Timbers’ trade of Wallace’s rights may not be the last preseason move intended to maximize cap space.
In any event, it appears unlikely Wallace would have been a regular starter for the Timbers in 2017 had he returned to Portland. Although a player of Wallace’s quality would have been a frontrunner for a primary role off the bench, Darlington Nagbe and Sebastián Blanco have a lock on the starting spots. Moreover, with Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla on the roster as well as youngsters Victor Arboleda and Jack Barmby enjoying strong training camps, the Timbers certainly appear to be plenty deep on the wings without Wallace.
Still, Wallace has been a fan-favorite in Portland for a reason: Among the most well-rounded wingers in MLS from 2013 to 2015, Wallace was a consistent contributor to the Timbers’ attack and defense, most notably scoring the Timbers’ second goal in their MLS Cup triumph over the Columbus Crew. The reunion that many had hoped for, however, isn't in the cards.
The allocation money coming back to Portland, however, will certainly help their efforts to replace Arokoyo and bring an additional key piece to the backline.
The offseason wheeling and dealing isn't over just yet.