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United's Wallace not revealing loyalties

There are precious few neutrals in the passionate realm of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. With dozens of soccer-mad nations across North and Central America and the Caribbean competing every four years for only three or four berths in the planet's biggest and most beloved sporting event, fans tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves every time their team confronts adversaries on the road to the Cup.But things are different for D.C. United winger Rodney Wallace. Ask him who he'll be rooting for when Costa Rica -- the country of his birth -- plays host to the United States, his adopted home since the age of nine, in a crucial qualifier on Wednesday night, and the usually quiet rookie grows even more circumspect."No," he said on Tuesday. "I'm just going to watch it, I'm not really looking to do anything right now. It's an important game for the both of them, the U.S. being on top of the table right now and Costa Rica is below. It's an important game for Costa Rica. If they get a win it'd be really big for them. It's going to be a battle."Wallace has reason to guard his loyalties. He's already played more than 1,000 minutes for D.C. in league action (ranking third on the team overall) and has notched two goals and three assists while providing consistent energy at both ends of the field, substantial contributions that belie his age.With his club coaches insistent that he's only scratched the surface of his potential, the question of his international future has already been broached in the media -- and behind closed doors at RFK Stadium.Though he spent the latter part of his childhood in D.C.'s Maryland suburbs, Wallace is not yet a U.S. citizen and he admits that he grew up "idolizing" the stars of the Costa Rican national team. With no youth international action on his resume, remains eligible for both national team programs -- and he refuses to reveal his thoughts on the choice."I'm not really going to talk about that," he said. "I'm just trying to keep my head right, basically. I'm just trying to focus on what I'm doing on the field for D.C. United."That will be music to D.C. head coach Tom Soehn's ears. Soehn also declined to comment on whether he or Wallace have been contacted by anyone from the U.S. or Costa Rica technical staffs, but he strongly suggested that his young left winger possesses the tools to compete at the next level."Any time there's a prospect of someone and you can see qualities in a kid that can turn into someone, you always want to get a head start and make sure you're giving him looks in whatever environment he's at. And he's got a lot of good qualities," said Soehn."At some point he needs to make up his mind as to which way he goes. But he's got a long way, a long time before he has to worry about that. Right now he just needs to focus on getting better every day with us."While neither he nor his coach are ready to discuss the matter, Wallace's teammates have already begun to offer their two cents' worth."Of course," said Wallace, allowing himself a small smile. "It comes up in the locker room here and there, guys talk about it. Advice and jokes and stuff."One of his senior colleagues, Brazilian winger Fred, called it a "difficult" decision but did share his own preference on Wallace's future."Right now I would prefer he play for the United States," he said, "because the USA is at a higher level right now."Over the past decade the United States has grown into the region's top powerhouse. But the Yanks still have yet to win a qualifier in Costa Rica, a fact that inspires great pride among Los Ticos, and Wallace knows all about the fanatical environment that will await the U.S. squad when they enter Estadio Saprissa on Wednesday."Soccer there is a lot different. From birth, you're a die-hard fan. So I know everyone in Costa Rica is talking about this game," he said. "It's a big deal over there. It's a big deal here too, for everyone who follows, but I feel like over there, every single person knows about the game. That's going to make it a little more difficult for the U.S."Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com.