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Reigniting the Chris Wondolowski-World Cup roster debate

Feb 3, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

South Korea v United States Getty Images

Chris Wondolowski did exactly what he needed Saturday, keeping his name in the conversation as Jurgen Klinsmann begins bearing down on the real nitty-gritty of those career making roster decisions.

Had Wondolowski not scored Saturday, in what may well have been his last U.S. starting assignment prior to roster decision time, the choice on the San Jose hitman would have been clear. But with two goals in the win over South Korea, credit the fellow for keeping this ball of debate in the air.

But as I’ve said before, it’s not enough to say “Chris Wondolowski deserves a roster spot.” If you believe so, that’s fine. But you should also say which U.S. striker doesn’t get to go in that case.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Klinsmann is likely to take six “forwards” if we count Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as such. That’s exactly as it happened in 2010, when the forwards were Dempsey, Donovan, Jozy Alditore, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez.

Same deal, more or less, in 2006: Dempsey, Donovan and a foursome of strikers.

So it seems safe to assume at this point something quite similar. Heck, you could even make the case that Klinsmann, more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2 in basic alignment preferences, could take just three pure strikers, preferring an extra man more comfortable working the flanks.

But if it’s four (beyond Dempsey and Donovan), here’s how they probably stack up at the moment:

You could quibble with the ordering, but based on lineups and camp rosters, it seems clear that these are Klinsmann’s top front runners of the moment. Barring injuries or loss of form, that leaves one spot. The candidates are:

  • Wondolowski
  • Terrence Boyd
  • Herculez Gomez
  • Mike Magee

Magee is a longshot; like Wondolowski, he needed to get into Saturday’s match and make a big, loud statement. Unfortunately, a bout of food poisoning undid Magee’s opportunity.

But Boyd is well thought of, and doing well at Rapid Vienna. Gomez was a Klinsmann favorite, whose effort and attitude was appreciated along with the talent, before injuries took him out of the scene for a while. If he goes on a run in Liga MX, the Tijuana  man becomes a heavy favorite to bump into that fearsome of foursome of travelers into Brazil.

So there it is, Wonder Wondo supporters. Your guy has kept himself in the thick of things – but he still has some miles to travel before making serious plans to spend his summer in Brazil.

(MORE: What went right in the U.S. win over South Korea)

(MORE: What went wrong in the U.S. win over South Korea)


  1. jaxfootballing - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Hard luck for Magee – he could have also added more intrigue to the argument. I have watched Wondo with USMNT for most of his appearances and against better opposition he does seem to get fewer chances overall. His right place/right time type of goal scoring is not as evident against really good teams. It is unfortunate that he was not given many opportunities before last summer. Boyd has not really impressed when given his slim chances. Out of these 4 names I happen to like Gomez and Wondo by a good bit. Between those two – I think that Gomez has shown a really good work rate on and off the ball with a fairly good finishing ability when given decent service. Have not seen him play with USMNT for about 8 months now – since Aron J has come onto the scene. Aron J looks to be the real deal – but needs some more play with the USMNT. IMO – Eddie J should have to show something more before given an automatic spot…..Overall, I like Gomez over Wondo based upon a more extensive resume at international level against quality opposition – showing some refined play and execution in tight play.

    It is gonna be a dog fight to even get the chance to impress…….should be interesting how this plays out. Injuries could still become a major determining factor for any one of them.

    • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:45 PM

      Boyd has only gotten 1 start and has impressed when he has come into the field as a sub.

  2. dfstell - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    I just don’t see a spot for Wondo on the roster at all. I really don’t get how the announcers kept talking about how South Korea was “real” opposition. They’re ranked 53rd in the world. Both of those goals happened because he was positioned a little better and a little faster to the ball than the defenders. I just don’t think that happens if we’re playing Germany. I’d rather take another forward who has the physical abilities to compete. For me it is either Hercules or Boyd who gets on the plane.

    Plus….we’re arguing over a guy who likely won’t even get on the field in the World Cup.

    • yoandreotti - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Messi is not physical player and yet is confounds all around him – its not height, speed nor shooting skills alone that makes a striker effective – at times its just being in the right place at the right time, and Wondo is that guy!

      So, I say Y-Not, he finds goals where there are none and for the US to advance they’ll need a few goals to get through (0-0 draws will not get them through). No one should be asking for spectacular (goals), just more than the other team. Let Altidore & Johnson awwwe the crowed – Wondo will take care of the scoring… Its America man – the Underdog, just like Wondo!

      • dfstell - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:05 PM

        No, no, no…..I am not listening to any of this nonsense about how Messi is somehow physically ungifted and does everything through technique and feel for the game. There is nobody playing in these top professional leagues who isn’t an elite athlete. That dude has otherworldly balance, fast-twitch quickness and reactions. And he isn’t slow either. It’s like every soccer player in the world who is slow, short and homely sees themselves in Messi.

        The guys who have nothing but feel for the game and technique and playing in the second division in backwater countries.

      • drewvt6 - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:27 PM

        c’mon Messi has world class acceleration with or without the ball. I would bet Messi’s 40 time is up there with the elite NFL players. Wondo is not world class in any physical category. If he enters a World Cup game against Ghana, Germany or Portugal, his defender is immediately able to reduce the space other key operators need. Even EJ with all of his technical deficiencies (mind you that is in comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo, Gotze, Kroos, Kruse, Boateng, Asamoah, etc not Wondo) creates room for his teammates because of his speed, strength and leaping abilities.

      • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Lol Wut?

    • chadmoon1 - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      Don’t use those FIFA rankings as any type of evidence that the Koreans are inferior opposition. They are among the 32 nations going to the World Cup! And they, like the US, were without their top flight Euro players. This was more or less a MLS vs. K-League matchup. Only a 1/3 to 1/2 of the players from both sides will make the Brazil trip.

      I believe whoever is in better form and banging in goals, either Wondo, Gomez, or Magee, should be the 4th forward. And considering that they may be thrown on in the 80th minute of a game where the USA needs a goal, wouldn’t it be reasonable to put on a tall, good header of the ball, lighthouse type striker who has a nose for goal??

      • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        It was South Korea’s B team.

  3. midtec2005 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    One thing I like about Wondo is the finishing ability. He had two chances against Korea and he scored two goals. That being said, it was Korea, not Portugal, Germany, or Ghana.

    What I really like is that we are having this discussion. I think the sixth forward could actually see playing time…. 4 years ago no one cared who the sixth forward was because he was so far down in quality it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, in one of BBs less brilliant moves, he started the worst forward… Findley.

  4. mlsconvert88888 - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    When he’s healthy, I’m a big fan of Gomez’s work on the pitch.
    It’ll be interesting though (and as dfstell points out) likely irrelevant who get’s the bench spot. Me personally I’d like to be able to watch more of Johansson and Boyd, as they’re a bit of a mystery for me.

    • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      Johannsson is a quality player in the making and he’s a near lock to make the WC roster. Boyd is a good forward who has a good future ahead of him and has a decent chance of making the WC team if he keeps scoring goals.

  5. player169 - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    The #4 striker is only coming in if you are down and a goal is needed. In that regard I still like Wondo over Gomez. He is a situational 20 minute play if you have to get a goal a chucking crosses in is what is needed. The guy knows how to move to goal and use space better then the three strikers listed above him. He is a poacher (a skill Dempsey has too) and is tough for defenders to cover at times when most people freeze up. John Terry pointed that out 2 years ago after the Allstar game and that’s saying something!!

    • bear06 - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      It was a meaningless all star game.

  6. player169 - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    He’s a sand wedge that you only use if you are deep in a bunker. Gomez is a 7 iron and we already have 2 or 3 seven irons in the bag….

  7. rafibomb10 - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Personally I don’t think anyone is “given” a roster spot as of right now. You can assume Tim Howard and those other few who start are probable, but injuries do happen. That’s my first point.

    I do think Wondo has worked himself into the equation though. He needs a good start to the MLS season to really move himself into an enviable position come May.

    If we are talking about bringing 6 forwards to Brazil, including Donavan and Dempsey, I’d look at the forwards who bring different traits and skill sets to the table. Jozy is a tank, Aaron is a spark plug, Johnson is unpredictable, Wondo is athletically challenged but is savy, and Gomez is fearless.

    My 4 who “should” not necessarily will are:
    1) Altidore
    2) Johannsson
    3) Boyd
    4) Wondo

    Left off Eddy Johnson because I feel he will struggle with DC and that will hurt his chances going to Brazil. Johnson was a player I used to like, but I think Boyd brings more to the table. I think Eddy hit his ceiling vs Mexico. Just my opinion though.

    Great article Steve!

  8. jimmycrackcorn99 - Feb 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    Just today (2/3/14) Klinsmann said that his 1st striker is Jozy and 2nd is Clint. For me the only natural choice for 3rd striker is Johannsson, who I would even start ahead of Clint up front due to his current form. That being said, I don’t think there will be a 4th striker heading to Brazil unless Dempsey is considered a hybrid.

  9. mrstev - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:53 AM

    It’s kinda funny…nothing brings out the Wondo-haters like Wondo tearing it up for the USMNT! And you know, that seems to have happened quite lot over the past year. Think on that for a minute.

    • mdac1012 - Feb 4, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      Which performance in the Gold Cup impressed you more, how Wondo tore it up against a semi-pro team from Belize made up of school teachers and taxi cab drivers or the 2 goals he scored against international soccer powerhouse Cuba. Maybe it was his performance against South Korea’s B team, which isn’t saying a lot because their A team isn’t that great.

      Wondo is a smart player and a good guy, and might take one of the last roster spots but don’t pretend he is somehow a top international player. I don’t think Mike Magee is a international player either, but at least he provides some versatility as opposed to Wondo whose skill set is very one dimensional.

  10. player169 - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Yes, it was a meaningless All star game, but I’m sure Wondo and Terry were both trying. When he said Wondo was tough to cover…that’s a big compliment. Boyd sucks…he’s done nothing in his US appearances and he plays in a league that is no better then MLS. Bear06…your comments have little merit…

    • bear06 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:46 PM

      You don’t know what you’re talking about player169. I bet you’re a SJ homer that’s why you’re getting upset that I’m talking the truth about wondo so your comments don’t really mean squat. Also Boyd sucks? You just made yourself look like an ignorant buffoon. He has only gotten 1 start for the U.S. MNT, but in the club level he’s already only 1 goal away from trying Dempsey’s goal total record for an American in European competition (Europa league) which is a higher level than than the MLS or the Concacaf Champions League.

  11. joanismylover - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Assuming EJ is a lock behind Alidore and AJ, of which I am not convinced, why would you bring Boyd? Boyd is one dimensional i.e. a forward, and while finally scoring Austrian league, has not scored once in 12 games for the US. EJ is the “Altidore, Jr” if Jozy gets injured during the tournament – a like for like replacement.

    With EJ in that mold, there should be a poacher type, 2nd striker replacement, and for me, that’s either Gomez or Wondo. If current international form is the barometer, Wondo takes it. Club form is harder to guage for Wondo at this point due to pre-season, but Gomez is back from injury and hasn’t scored in five games. (Hence Mr. Davis’ speculative “if Gomez goes on a tear” comment, which simply predisposes his anti-Wondo/Earthquakes bias).

    What cannot be disputed is that Wondo scores goals, and goals win games. It took him a little while to get started in college. He managed. Same for MLS, not much in his first few years, and then he scored 79 goals in 110+ games over the last four years. It took him a little while to get started for the USMNT, but now he’s scored 8 goals in his last 9 matches. I see a trend.

    • bear06 - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      Umm Boyd has only had 1 start for the U.S. MNT and he is definitely not one dimensional like wondo. He’s already one goal away from trying Dempsey’s goal scoring record for an American in European competition (Europa League). Also scoring against semi-pro teams like Belize and Cuba is not a trend.

      Boyd & EJ > Wondo

  12. nightwind15 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    I think you could leave EJ and Altidore at home. Neither have lived up to their billing of late. Johannsson and Wondo would make a nice pairing.

    • bear06 - Feb 6, 2014 at 12:30 AM

      Leave Altidore at home? That’s not going to happen. Also wondo is going to have a tough time making the WC roster let alone getting playing time in the big stage.

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