Skip to content

Getting realistic about the “Chris Wondolowski to Brazil” talk

Jul 15, 2013, 3:01 PM EDT

Wondolowski of the U.S. reacts to goal against Belize during their CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match in Portland, Oregon

Chris Wondolowski’s sizzling summer of international scoring has mercifully provided fans and media something to argue about during two Gold Cup clobberings, group stage mismatches that were remarkable only for the personnel-related subplots.  

And by scoring six times in three matches (including one pre-tourney friendly), Wondolowski has ginned up the ol’ resume while beginning to adjust a narrative that previously read in part, “great league player although ineffective at international level.”

So … check, check and check-arooney on all that.

What he hasn’t done is punch that magical ticket to Brazil – no matter what some of the overly excited among fans and media seem to think.

Most of the breathless, Brazil-related hyperbole is simply a product of time, place and fallible human psychology, this tendency we all have to overvalue events in the moment, simultaneously devaluing achievement that has drifted just a little further from memory.

Aside from the memory gap, the obvious point of disconnect is the relative weakness of opposition lately. Guatemala, Belize and Cuba might make for reasonable practice opposition, but they hardly represent the kind of quality competition that can test and stretch ability. Not being cruel here; these are smaller countries doing the very best they can – and even rebuilding around younger types in Guatemala’s case. Still, we cannot ignore that element of the Wondolowski conversation.

(MORE: Cheering for Wondo in the World Cup? Great! So … who do you leave out?)

What the San Jose Earthquakes high-scoring striker and current MLS Golden Boot holder has done is this: He has improved his position in the big jostle for 23 World Cup roster spots to be decided in 10 months. He has kept his name squarely in the roster conversation. And good on him.

Remember the Golden Rule about international friendlies and these tournament matches against regional small fries: No U.S. performer can truly play his way onto a World Cup roster, but he can certainly clunk his way out of the conversation. The hard reality is this: the man who cannot handle business in a highly effective way against nominal competition, especially when there is no real pressure afoot, cannot possibly be trusted when the stakes and the quality of opposition rise.

This is no knock on Wondolowski; so far it’s a clear “mission accomplished” for the likeable striker. He still has more to do, but “Wondo” has positioned himself for further chances in the tougher matches ahead, starting with Tuesday’s against Costa Rica. (Mad as hornets, those Ticos are, after the Snow Clasico in late March, where Costa Rican officials felt hard done by the decision to play through that snow storm.)

(MORE: What the U.S. striker depth chart looked like coming into the Gold Cup)

Wondolowski has demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that he can pounce on defensive blunder with a brutal effectiveness, and there is certainly value to that. (Plenty of strikers cannot reliably do the same.) That has long been his forte, combining smart runs with a clinical finishing acumen to exploit even the thinnest of defensive inattention or the smallest mistake in positioning.

Trouble is, those back line boo-boos may happen once or twice a match against better defenders, not several times a half as we’ve seen lately in these U.S. matches.

There is one more element to this conversation and ongoing debate – “Wondo: Take him to Brazil or not?” – that we will take up in a subsequent post in about an half and hour. So check back.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps

    Two red cards for RSL, a late goal for Vancouver and the Whitecaps just keep winning.

  2. WATCH: The 2 Robbies answer the question, “Should Chelsea worry about entertaining?”

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

    Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies

    Do the top teams have a responsibility to entertain, or should they look to win at all costs, no matter how boring it may be?

  3. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 3-0 Orlando City SC

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT

    Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC

    Crew SC are going to be a really, really scary team once they get going. They picked up a great deal of steam on Saturday night.

  4. Bale, Modric pick up injuries, could miss Real Madrid’s Champions League second leg

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:58 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF Cristiano Ronaldo & Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF

    Not the ideal time for a pair of key players to go down in the same game, four days before a CL quarterfinal second leg.

  5. Promotion Watch: Watford lead the newly reconfigured (again) Championship race

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Watford v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    New week, same story, new teams on top, same old excitement — the Championship is truly amazing this year.

  6. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Messi scores No. 400, Barca maintain lead; Juve still good

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez & Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    It was an historic day for Messi, as Barca inch closer to the league tile. Elsewhere, Juve remind everyone Serie A is all theirs.

  7. Premier League Sunday preview: Can Spurs, Man City find hope versus Newcastle, West Ham?

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT

    A pair of Premier League matches are ready for your Sunday viewing pleasure, and take note that one features a different broadcast channel.

  8. Bundesliga wrap: BVB, Bayern, Bayer win; USMNT players split points

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-FRANKFURT-MOENCHENGLADBACH Getty Images

    Seventy-seven percent of this weekend’s Bundesliga results are in the books, and Germany is still waiting for its first upset.

  9. VIDEO: Rooney says Manchester United was unlucky, crowns Chelsea champion

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney felt his team did enough to top Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but the score line says otherwise.

  10. Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Manchester United

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    Shaw's superb display caught the eye. Getty Images

    Here’s what we learned from Chelsea’s narrow win over United.

  11. Arsenal 2-1 Reading: Alexis helps Gunners clinch FA Cup final berth

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Reading - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    Arsenal had 71 percent possession as late as the 80th minute, but the score remained deadlocked at one.

  12. VIDEO: Pearson thrilled with Leicester win, but can’t let foot off gas

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Hear what the Foxes’ boss had to say about Leicester’s big win.

  13. Crystal Palace 0-2 West Bromwich Albion: Morrison, Gardner lead Baggies (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Palace’s table charge is momentarily halted, as Alan Pardew’s boys sit 11th with 42 points.

  14. Everton 1-0 Burnley: Mirallas’ early strike sees off 10-man Clarets (video)

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Toffees five unbeaten, send Clarets bottom of the table.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea