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Want Chris Wondolowski on the World Cup roster? Great! Now … who do you leave out?

Jul 15, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT

Jurgen Klinsmann AP

You know that thing that hollerin’ pundits do around NCAA Tournament selection time, where they get high and mighty and talk about how this team got hosed, and how that one got hosed, too?

You know what most of them will not do? They generally won’t acknowledge that it’s a zero-sum game, meaning that for every winner there must be a loser. They skillfully dodge identifying which team they would boot from the field in order to squeeze in the unjustly uninvited.

See, it’s easy to be the good cop who invites everyone past the velvet rope – much harder to be the meanie that keeps some of the would-be partiers out.

(MORE: Tapping the brakes on the “Chris Wondolowski has Brazil booked” talk)

So we arrive here on the Chris Wondolowski conversation.  Because if Major League Soccer’s current Golden Boot holder gobbles up one of the spots, are we compelled to begin wading into the less pleasant end of this swimming hole: which player gets left behind?

History has shown that U.S. managers prefer to bring four forwards to World Cups. For Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were both listed as midfielders.

Here is where the math gets a little fuzzy, because manager Jurgen Klinsmann has used Dempsey almost exclusively as a second striker. The manager may see Dempsey as a forward – even if only nominally so, because all this stuff is more art than hard math, isn’t it? – and that would mean one fewer prototype frontrunner will be seated on that golden charter into Brazil.

Further, Donovan is filling a role as a second striker more often. Clearly, he’s capable of playing in wider positions, too. And there is a spot that appears to be open on the left at the moment. Still, the number of available forwards starts getting crowded quickly, doesn’t it?

source:

At this point, Jozy Altidore and Herculez Gomez are as close to “locks” as anyone can be 10 months out of official roster submission into FIFA. Clearly, injuries can happen. And players can fall out of form, although these two have done a lot to earn benefit of the doubt. Both would have to fall wildly out of form to be cast aside.

Eddie Johnson has probably done enough at this point, especially as Klinsmann has been bold about using the striker in wide positions. If Dempsey and/or Donovan go as a striker, there’s your list. And … please pardon me for doing this … Where’s Wondo?

Even if a fourth, natural forward is taken, and if that fellow is named Wondolowski, look who we’ve just eliminated: Probably Terrence Boyd, a really terrific young talent. Perhaps also Joe Corona, who was usually in the “hole” behind an advanced striker before the Gold Cup.

What about Jack McInerney, who may have something to say about all this in the next 10 months?

So, all this is not just about Wondolowski. There’s a bigger picture to consider – and to argue and debate about.

(MORE: U.S. striker depth chart heading into the  Gold Cup) 

  1. teamperkins11 - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    To take your analogy a little further….does teams 65-68 of the tournament really matter that much. I know it means a great deal to the teams, but when was the last time one of the last 4 teams in an NCAA tournament made a difference. Carrying that across to soccer, we are in deep trouble as a team if we are relying on the abilities of Wondo, Boyd, or Corona in a World Cup game. In the end, this team will go as far as the core can take it. While a player or two not part of the core of the team may make plays, the run of play will be determined by Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, or even Donovan. The bigger question is how would Klinsmann get an in form Holden, Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, and Jones onto the field together comfortably. A good problem to have though!

  2. jay1934 - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    My vote is Altadore is expendable. Over the past two years he hasn’t shown a lot scoring talent which the U.S. needs. There are too many talented forwards to consider.

    • johnhall704 - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:04 PM

      Based on his form for the national team over the last two years, you’re right. Based on his form for club over the last year and country over his last couple call ups? There’s absolutely no way you can justify leaving him off the roster. In his current form, he could likely make the roster for most (definitely not all, but most) national teams – he’s playing that well.

    • Steve Davis - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      Well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion re Altidore (with an “i” … not an “a”) . But, uh … the guy just DID just score in four consecutive matches, which equals a USMNT record. One was against Germany, and three were in tight WC Qualfiers. If that doesn’t qualify as demonstrating scoring talent, I suppose I don’t know what possibly could.

    • lfan1985 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:16 PM

      Following your logic, then we should leave Wondo out as well. He hasnt performed well over the last 2 years either dating back to the last gold cup. I dare you to name a striker who has performed better than either of these guys over a two year span.

      • wfjackson3 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:05 AM

        Hercules Gomez?

  3. joanismylover - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Steve Davis proves his anti-Earthquakes bias with every stroke of the key board. I know this post is comment bait and I’ve bitten.

    So, why are Gomez and EJ locks?

    Even if they are locks – they aren’t and you (should) know that – it seems like you’re putting Wondo at striker number 5, behind those two and two other un-named forwards. Because as you point out, Donovan and Dempsey have been traditionally listed at midfielders. That leaves four spots. Maybe three if one of them gets listed as forward.

    I honestly don’t get the Wondo hate. In any other country in the world people would be screaming bloody murder that the leading goal scorer in the domestic league was left off the roster. Only in America do we value “potential”, athleticism, and riding the pine in Europe over, you know, scoring goals.

    How about you just agree that scoring goals is a good thing, and that his six goals in three games is unprecedented, even given the supposedly inferior level of the competition.

    • twalkray - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      Just a thought but you might want to re-read this one

      • twalkray - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:07 PM

        The article that is; there seems, to me at least, to be a few disparities to what is being said and what meaning you have wrought from it

    • mp2190 - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:16 PM

      Might want to check who last year’s leading scorer in the bundesliga was.

  4. joanismylover - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    @twalkray – thanks. I read it again at your behest, and the import of it was as I initially read: Davis apparently rates all forwards in the pool ahead of Wondo. The article suggests that even though Wondo is scoring goals – something he’s been doing consistently for 3-4 years now – it is not enough to warrant inclusion on the roster. That doesn’t make any sense given that Altidore is the only true striker consistently scoring for the US and his club team.

  5. markburst - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    If Wondo is in, then who is out? Hercules Gomez… he has not looked good in the right white and blue lately. He was a non-factor against Cuba and Wondo put in a couple of reasons as to why he is the ultimate poacher. If we take 4 forwards to Brazil then I say, Altidore, Dempsey, Wondo, Boyd. I view Donovan as a midfield player exclusively these days and he should be in…

  6. talgrath - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    Corona is being played as a midfielder, I don’t forsee Klinsmann using him as a forward. Jack McInerney is not quite ready for the world stage, yet, that helps your math a bit. EJ and Dempsey have also been used as wingers and midfielders more than strikers. That gives you four spots to fill, LD, Jozy Altidore, Wondo and Gomez would be most likely. Admittedly, if you consider Eddie Johnson a forward, then you’re looking at something of a three way fight with two spots between him, Gomez and Wondo, add Dempsey in to the mix and you are down to 1…but I don’t see that happening.

  7. dfstell - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    I kinda agree with leaving him out. I tend to think he is pretty deadly when he’s playing against mistake prone defenses, but we’ll see against the better competition that remains in the Gold Cup.

    I’m just not sure what role Wondo would play in the World Cup. I hear people refer to bringing him on when you need a goal at the end of the game. I’m just not sure who you’re taking out unless you think Jozy or Clint will have stamina problems. Unless they are tired, you’re not sitting either of those guys or LD for Wondo to come out. He’s also not as versatile as the other guys who keep getting mentioned. And…..if we’re talking about bringing a striker who never plays, why not bring someone young who can benefit from the experience and will actually be part of the next cycle (like Boyd or Corona).

  8. player169 - Jul 15, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Versatility is certainly key to your World Cup bench players and something Klinsman clearly values. That may be a fairly big knock against Wondo. I posted in the other article the idea of him being on the team as a super sub that would be used in very specific situations…kind of like the pitching wedge if we use a golf analogy. You aren’t going to use the wedge on every hole, but there are a few shots per round where it will be the right situation for that club. I don’t see Boyd filling a spot in the 23. Wondo and/or Gomez will slot in behind Altidore and EJ which I see as the two locks. Donovan and Dempsey being versatile at Striker / Midfield will be factors on whether both Gomez and Wondo make it the roster. The amount of versatility already at the core of the “A” team might be enough to make room for Wondo…

  9. mrstev - Jul 15, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    Would someone please explain to me why Jozy and Herc are automatic locks?!
    Has their performance over the last few of years really warranted that status? I think not. So Jozy scored a few goals recently after getting a swift kick-in-the-ass benching from Klinsmann. Prior to that you can go all the way back to that last World Cup and he’s been nothing but disappointing (Oh I forgot, his “hold-up” play was pretty good somewhere along the way…puh-lease!) Is it because they are a lot younger? If so, well, that sux.

    I say take Wondo instead of either one of those guys.

    • lfan1985 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      Up until this Gold Cup Wondo hasnt been able to put the ball in the net AT ALL. Altidore had a promising start to his last Gold Cup in 2011 but pulled up lame with a hamstring issue. I agree with you in that nobody has performed well over a two year span, but thats just it, NOBODY has performed well over a two year span. So Altidore is the best of an underachieving bunch and we work with what we have. Gomez can watch the World Cup from his couch though as far as I’m concerned.

  10. joemontanaflaccid - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Carry 2 GK’s, problem solved. When have you ever seen a 3rd string goalie.

    • bpmangan - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      FIFA requires teams to carry 3.

  11. capsfan19 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Anyone saying jozy isnt a lock up is nuts. His trending has done nothing but gone up. Yea past world cup was rough but he was also MUCH younger, aka 4 YEARS YOUNGER. He’s had a ton of experience playing in europe, not for a european powerhouse by any stretch, but its waaayyyy better than mls competition he’d be getting. He was also the highest scorer in the dutch league wasn’t he?
    He is a beast in the box and will only get better. I havent seen a ton of wondo but while he does have the finishing, his overall strength and ball control is no match for jozy. (Aka why he’s playing on b team for gold cup). Yea he looks amazing, but look at the competition… Compare that to the games jozy was just matched up again.
    Gomez is great in the air but soooo slow. Oh man i could walk faster than him! Leave dempsey in as foward. He is an excellent all around attacking force with a beautiful shot.
    The fourth spot eh… Not sure. Id say give wondo some more intense competition and maybe. But if you dont think jozy is all but locked up, he’s only getting better. I refer you to watch his one time goal against germany. Thats the kind of goals that a player of his caliber can score against big teams. Not just mls teams.

  12. midtec2005 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    Wondo has had 2 great games against piss poor competition. I’m not knocking him though, he looks good. But I think we need a larger sample size before we start putting him on the WC roster… lets see how the rest of the Gold Cup and WC qualifiers go…

  13. mdac1012 - Jul 15, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Where was all the clamor for Wondo to be on the “A” team before this tournament? Where were all the Wondo fans calling for him to start over Jozy when he was doing zero for the USMNT in all his prior appearances combined?

    He scores (to his credit & my joy as a fan) a hat trick against a team that is essentially a semi-pro team and then two more against a team that pundits were joking might have more defectors than goals scored by the end of the night and all of a sudden guys have him not only on the team but replacing guys with more ability.

    If Wondo plays well enough and earns a spot then good for him, he deserves to be rewarded then. But he needs to show a lot more against actual competition, not teams that couldn’t even beat USL Pro teams.

    Wondo is an intelligent player that is physical, makes smart runs and has a nose for the goal, an instinct that really can’t be taught. His big problem is his lack lack of an overall game. He is essentially a one trick pony, that doesn’t really do anything else at a high enough level to move himself into that next class of player. If everything is not being run through him as the primary striker, he doesnt do anything else well enough to warrent him being on the pitch. He is kind of the American version of Ricky Lambert.

    • wfjackson3 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:09 AM

      Thats actually a really nice comparison.

  14. mrstev - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:19 AM

    It’ll be fun to have this conversation again at the end of the Gold Cup. After Wondo has scored more goals in the tourney than any American ever. Oh wait…he already did that! Anyway, he could score ten more goals and there would still be bucketloads of reasons being tossed around about how he doesn’t belong on the team.
    A lot of you admit to not having seen much of him before. There’s a couple of reasons for that: 1. You don’t follow MLS. 2. Most

    • dstnce1500 - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      “After Wondo has scored more goals in the tourney than any American ever. Oh wait…he already did that!”

      Uhhh, you’re kidding, right??? Landon Donovan, playing in his FOURTH Gold Cup, has scored 15 goals in this tourney to date (vs. Wondo’s 5). You might want to do a little research about the roster, the history of the tourney, etc., before you start spouting off and looking like an uninformed bandwagon rider.

      Though Wondo is scoring against sub-par (at best) competition, the true test will come against better opponents. Let’s see how he does, if he gets on the field, against CRC today [who, by the way, are 2nd in the Hex with 11 pts and a +4 goal differential]. Let’s see if he makes the roster for the Aug. 14 exhibition against Bosnia-Herzegovina [currently ranked #14 by FIFA] in Sarajevo.

      There are a lot of guys who have made multiple caps for the USMNT in the last 5-7 years that are no longer part of the depth chart even though they’re still in (or are close to) their soccer prime:

      Jonathan Bornstein, 38 caps, no longer on the list
      Jonathan Spector, 34 caps, no longer on the list
      Juan Agudelo, 17 caps, not on the current list [though he's still young]
      Edson Buddle, 11 caps, no longer on the list
      Benny Feilhaber, 40 caps, no longer on the list
      Sacha Kljestan, 39 caps, very rarely gets called into camp anymore

      >> The reason the German-American players make the roster on a regular basis? Versatility! (See: Johnson, Fabian; Jones, Jermaine) The reason other players, sometimes much older, make the roster on regular basis? Versatility! (See: Beasley, DeMarcus) Wondo’s two biggest hurdles? Lack of versatility and lack of productive movement off the ball (i.e. – pulling defenders away from the play to make space). Other players make space by pulling defenders. (See: Dempsey, Clint; Donovan, Landon; Bradley, Michael)

      Wondo has to show that he is a complete and versatile player if he wants to make the squad (which is a bit shocking that he is as far behind in these areas as he is at the age of 30, but that makes it even harder because time [aka his age] is against him).

      • midtec2005 - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        Not to get involved in your little argument but mrstev was talking about most goals in a single gold cup. 5 is the most.

  15. mrstev - Jul 16, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    2. Most of Wondo’s prior caps have been of the variety where he’s thrown into the game in the 85th minute of a losing or meaningless cause.

    • godsholytrousers - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Too True, one of the reasons Bunker Bob is gone. His “evaluation tools” were simply to prove what he had already decided.

  16. steelace1 - Jul 16, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    I think Wondo looked great in the last two games! He was MLS MVP in 2012 and has scored 69 goals in 121 appearances with the San Jose Earthquakes since 2009. I have played and reffed tons of soccer, and there is nothing wrong with being having a smart and agile soccer brain as a striker, as Wondo has, and poaching opportunistic goals. They do not have to be pretty (many of Clint Dempsey’s goals are just being in the right spot at the right time), just get the ball in the back of the net. Over the last 20 years or so, especially before Clint, I would say that the USMNT has a history of not being efficient in converting chances into goals. When playing at the international level we need scorers that will punish the opposing team for any defensive lapses rather than just relying on our size or physicality. A lack of solid finishing and a dearth of depth at many positions while having defensive deficits have prevented the USMNT from doing better. So it is nice to finally have some options.
    I will try to find stats on minutes played per goal and hopefully I can compare Altidore and Wondo stats for the USMNT. I think Wondo’s stats in that category will vastly outperform Altidore’s!

    I never have been an Altidore fan, mainly because his first touch often lets him down. You CANNOT be a world class striker with a bad first touch that he Altidore often displays. So I have a real lack of faith in him because of that trait. He also does not score consistently on the USMNT, and his work rate is too low. Over the years, he can often be seen loafing around, often jogging or even walking. He is young and should not get tired, play 100%, do not be lazy. I do not care if you are young and big and have “promise”! Get in position, contribute at all times! Otherwise get off the field and the team and make room for another player that wants it more badly and will perform and perform professionally. Although he scored 4 times in 4 games recently, now that Altidore has a new contract, I fear he will fall back into bad habits and another scoring drought will ensue.

    • wfjackson3 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:11 AM

      Dempsey and Wondo are in different soccer universes. Dempsey is good at so much more than just poaching.

  17. godsholytrousers - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Altidore is the only lock so far, and that could all fall apart with the move to Slumberland.
    Wondolowski is a productive goal scorer. For Club and now Country.

    Wondolowski is the American Chicharito. They are the exact same player. Exact same skill set. The differences in their games in measured in nanomicrons. Would Mexico go to the World Cup in Brazil without the Sweet Little Pea? No Way! You have to treasure goal scorers, even if they are poachers.

    Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd are all good too, but I’d take Wondo.

    My Four at the moment: Altidore, Gomez, Wondo, Boyd

    • wfjackson3 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:12 AM

      You must be kidding. So you think that Wondo is as good as a Manchester United striker? Has Wondo even trialed in the EPL?

  18. midtec2005 - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    I guess Altidore will never win over some people. He is by far our best striker, there’s little argument about that. He’s not been lazy, and his first touch is pretty darn good. It seems like some of you haven’t watched a game since 2008. That said, I hope Wondo keeps up the scoring, because every team can use some extra goals. If I had to take 4 right now… not including Dempsey and Donovan, I’d take Altidore, Wondo, Gomez, and McInerny. Yes, McInerny, mostly just to get him the experience. At his current rate of growth he is the future.

    • godsholytrousers - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      True on Altidore, I just fear the potential disaster season for Sunderland (nothing to do with Jozy). They were17th for a reason last season. If anyone is in the form to move them up the table it is Jozy. I hope he does it, but I recall Hull City vividly. Jozy was the top scorer for Hull by minutes played. He didn’t get any credit and was blamed for many of their problems.

      Altidore, Wondo, Gomez and the 4th player to gain experience (Boyd or Jack Mac). I don’t rate Eddie Johnson because of the disaster going on in Seattle. With him back at striker they’ve gone into a nose-dive.

      This could all change, and the overall idea in this article is relevant. This will end up being more about who doesn’t make the cut, which is showing good growth for US Soccer under Klinsmann.

      • midtec2005 - Jul 16, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Good point about growth, that was my initial take-away as well. How awesome is it that we have to have a legitimate discussion about who goes? For years it was McBride and everyone else and then Jozy and everyone else. Now we actually seem to have some options, that’s awesome.

        As for the Sunderland move, I have a good feeling about it. I think De Canio (spelling?) is going to like Jozy and Jozy has all of the physical tools needed to be a success.

  19. trippymane - Jul 16, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    @ at the guy who said wondolowski is the American chicharito LOL!!!! Get out of here bro have you even seen chicharito play? Chicharito is 10x better than wondo. There is a reason chicharito plays for man u and wondo plays for the sj earthquakes

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