Freshman turns heads, scores goals

Photo by Alison Pate

Photo by Alison Pate

Jordan Jacobo

Sports editor

Search for freshman forward Kyle Wallace on YouTube, and you will find a memento to the Tualatin High School soccer legacy he carries with him: his capacity as a player with a well-honed, skilled right foot, able to strike the ball with precision, placement and power.

Wallace shows a keen sense of field awareness, playing with grace and confidence. He slices past defenders, chases down loose balls and even makes a few no-look passes.

As a senior midfielder for Tualatin, Wallace was a master at setting up goal-scoring opportunities.

His assists and leadership carried the team past perennial powerhouse Lakeridge High School, 3-2, before losing to Central Catholic High School, the eventual state champion, 1-0, in the semi-final. On the way, Wallace earned the recognition of being first-team All-State and the 6A Pacific Conference Player of the Year.

Since coming to Linfield, Wallace has gone from distributor to major scoring threat. He now leads the team with six goals, an impressive feat for a first-year collegiate athlete starting in a new position.

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on him,” head coach Ian Lefebvre said. “He’s really carrying the load for us.”

Wallace was thrust to forward, outside his natural position at midfield, when the team changed its formation, adding a third forward position to increase its scoring potential. Along with juniors midfielder Travis Isaacs and forward Kurtis Wong, he has taken on the responsibility of offensive production and takes the game into his own hands when the team is struggling.

But Wallace’s passionate play is not without its pitfalls. He has been flagged with five yellow cards in the team’s first 12 games, and, according to league rules, he is suspended from the Oct. 18 game against Whitman College.

Wallace said curbing the amount of cards he’s issued is a major goal for him for the remainder of the
season.

The reason for Wallace’s yellow cards is a mix of immaturity and intensity, Lefebvre said. He said several conversations have been held between the two of them, and the solution is just finding a way to vent his frustrations better.

“A lot of eyes are watching him,” Lefebvre said. “We’ve just asked him to play the way he can play and be who he is. He’s very confident and that carries onto the pitch.”

Wallace was recruited because of the raw talent he showed at Tualatin and with his Beaverton-based Westside Metros club team, Lefebvre said.

The best way to let him develop his talent at Linfield is giving him more game-time experience, he said.

“It’s hard for a kid to come in brand new, with all the pressures of being at a new school, being away from home and throwing him on a team and asking him to contribute,” Lefebvre said.

If his performance in the first 12 games of his collegiate career is any indication, Wallace handles the pressure well. He has scored under pressure from stingy defensive efforts from the other team, including one game-winning goal, and he has an accurate shot when he gets an opportunity. He leads the team in shot percentage with one-fourth of his kicks hitting the back of the net.

Wallace said the unity of the team is on a whole different level than his former club team. Eating, living, studying and training with the squad has fostered a deep sense of community among the program that is conducive to a deep sense of trust and obligation of each other on the field.

As for the position change, Wallace said it has taken some getting used to and has required he rely less on finesse and more on physical strength.

“When you’re playing forward, you get knocked around a lot,” he said. “You take hits up top because you’re trying to find the ball at your feet with your back to the defender.”

Transitioning his style from that of the set-up man to the go-to scorer, Wallace said he looks at his offensive play in a new light. He has become opportunistic, taking small gaps in the defense and exploiting them.

As for the older players, they’ve been available to help him settle into his new role for the ‘Cats, Wallace said.

“They definitely keep me in check,” he said. “They help me realize there’s still respect to be earned, but they appreciate the work that I’m willing to put in. Mostly, they are just really supportive of me.”

Though he has three seasons left to improve his game, Wallace said he wants to be a big-time player in the conference already. His youth, energy, motivation and skill bode well for Linfield’s soccer program, which is in the process of trying to build itself up to become a top competitor in the NWC.

“I’d like to score more goals and get a few more wins,” Wallace said. “I’d love to be all-conference, but I definitely just want to help the team be successful and grow.”

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