The offseason news for Sporting Kansas City had been relatively quiet over the past week but Sporting KC broke that silence with a new signing on Friday. The club announced they signed free agent Rodney Wallace from New York City FC.
The press release specifically lists him as both a defender and a wide midfielder, but the graphic the team released could be more telling as it specifically says left back. In the past, he’s mostly been listed as a midfielder or forward and he typically plays out wide on the wing. It’s telling that Sporting apparently sees him as a left back, but positional diversity is something Peter Vermes values and he could get some minutes at forward.
Wallace is 30-years-old and he’ll be 31 in June. He is a nine year MLS veteran who most recently played for NYCFC before having his option declined. He spent two years in New York, the prior five years with the Portland Timbers and his first two years in the league with D.C. United. In addition he is a Costa Rican international with 24 appearances and played for a brief window in Portugal in the first division for Arounca before being sold to Brazilian club Sport Recife back in 2016. That was his lone year outside of MLS.
In his MLS career he has 203 appearances (160 starts), 14,147 minutes, 24 goals and 29 assists. He is coming off a year in which he had a career low in starts (nine) and minutes (818). Here are his career MLS stats.
Rodney Wallace MLS Stats
|2018||New York City FC||18||9||1||818||1||20||4||16||8||2||0|
|2017||New York City FC||26||23||4||1935||6||52||19||46||6||6||0|
Manager Peter Vermes weighed in on the Wallace signing today at Pinnacle.
“Rodney has strong qualities as a soccer player and the type of mentality that we always search for. He is incredibly competitive and can impact the game with and without the ball. I see him fitting into our team really quickly, and I’m extremely excited to add someone of his caliber to our roster.”
Wallace also spoke highly of Sporting KC.
“Sporting KC is a passionate club that knows how to win. There are a lot of key aspects here to winning, from the players and staff to the facilities and fans. The soccer atmosphere in Kansas City gives the team that extra edge, and I am excited to come here and be a part of something special.”
If Wallace was signed to be a left back, he’ll have stiff competition at the position. Seth Sinovic is the incumbent starter and despite their efforts to replace him, he keeps getting back into the starting lineup. Sinovic recently signed a one-year extension through 2019 and Wallace himself has signed on just for 2019 as well.
The other left back still on the roster is Jimmy Medranda who suffered a season ending injury in 2018. When that surgery was announced Vermes hoped to have him back by April or May. It’s entirely possible Wallace has been brought in to compete with Seth until Medranda is healthy enough to join that competition.
There are no other natural left backs on the roster but there are two other players who lined up there in 2018. Yohan Croizet had a single start in the playoffs against Real Salt Lake. And Jaylin Lindsey, a natural right back, played there for a stretch over the summer before losing the job back to Sinovic.
It seems very likely Wallace will face fierce competition to get on the field but his positional diversity should allow him to line up on the left wing in SKC’s 4-3-3 as well.
As far as salary, we won’t know what Wallace signed for until the April Major League Soccer Players Union salary release. In 2018, Wallace made $300,000, but that was as a winger. His productivity didn’t support that pay, which is likely why New York declined his option. Fullbacks are notoriously paid lower wages unless you are elite at the position. For comparison, Sinovic made $157,666.67 in 2018 and Lindsey made just $67,504 as he’s still on his rookie Homegrown deal.
Despite Wallace being an international player, he did not occupy an international slot on NYCFC’s roster in 2018 so that shouldn’t be an issue with SKC either. That will leave Sporting flexibility as the offseason continues.
The biggest question for Wallace might be can he contribute more than prior free agent signings for SKC? Sporting KC infamously signed the first ever MLS free agent when they agreed to terms with Justin Mapp. He made six appearances for 43 minutes in 2016 in exchange for $239,070 in salary. In 2018 they signed Brad Evans who never got on the field for SKC but made $200,000. It won’t be a high bar for Wallace to clear.