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Wondo faces stiff competition
by Paul Kennedy, February 2nd, 2014 9:09PM

TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


[USA MEN] If this was four years ago, Chris Wondolowski with his two goals in Saturday's 2-0 win over South Korea would have put himself in prime position to earn a spot on the U.S. World Cup team. But he faces stiff competition in 2014.

The case against Wondo is simple: U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called in initial sets of five forwards for all four multiple World Cup qualifying dates in 2013, and Wondo was never among the seven different players he called up:

Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG)
Clint Dempsey (Seattle)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Aron Johannsson (AZ/NED)
Eddie Johnson (D.C. United)
Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/AUT)
Herculez Gomez (Tijuana/MEX)

Of the seven, the World Cup chances of only Gomez would seem to have faded. He has not been called up since the Gold Cup, where he played with an injured knee. Though he has gained a starting spot at Tijuana, he has not scored in five games in the Torneo Clausura.

Klinsmann is likely to take no more than five forwards even if you classify Donovan as a forward and he ends up playing in midfield, like he is likely to do if he is to start and doesn't beat out Dempsey for the second forward spot behind Altidore.

Johannsson wasn't even in the U.S. picture at this time a year ago, but he is a lock, given his success at AZ (20 goals already in all competitions).

Despite his troubles at the end of the 2013 season at Seattle, Johnson has been a very reliable and versatile player for Klinsmann, getting the winning goal that beat Mexico in Columbus and qualified the USA for the World Cup. He would begin the year as the likely fifth choice in Klinsmann's stable of forwards.

You can't rule out Boyd, though. He hasn't played a lot for Klinsmann, but he was called up for all but the September double fixture dates. Boyd has been scoring for Rapid Vienna (12 goals so far this season) and he is the closest thing to a double for Altidore.

The knock on Wondo comes in the form of a back-handed compliment that all he does is score goals. He doesn't have the speed or heading ability of Johnson or the strength of Boyd. But he does bring to team intangibles that Klinsmann cherishes.

Right now, Wondo would lose out in his bid to go to Brazil, but Klinsmann has emphasized what players do with their clubs over the next three months -- what he and his staff see on the field and what they hear about from their club coaches at practice and off the field -- will determine who he brings into the pre-World Cup to begin in mid-May.

For Wondolowski's part, a World Cup call-up would be special in so many ways. The pre-World Cup camp is reportedly set be held in his backyard of Northern California.

2010. Bob Bradley took six players classified as forwards to the World Cup in South Africa: Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan and Gomez, plus Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley.

Gomez, Buddle and Findley had not even played in any of the 14 World Cup qualifiers yet they all went to the World Cup.

The frontline picture changed on the eve of the final qualifier against Costa Rica in Washington when Charlie Davies was injured in a serious car accident that would rule him out of the World Cup.

Findley was the most similar in style to Davies and he ended up being Altidore's partner up front in three of the four gamees in South Africa. (Dempsey and Donovan both started in midfield.)

Buddle was such a longshot that he wasn't even called into Bradley's January camp but made the World Cup team after getting to a hot start for the LA Galaxy. Gomez was at the end of the line after he was released by Kansas City after the 2009 MLS season but a hot streak at Puebla earned him a share of the Mexican league scoring title and a berth on the U.S. World Cup team.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: February 2, 2014 at 11:52 p.m.
    Here is klinsmann formation for brazil 2014, playing a 4-2-3-1. Howard Cameron Besler Gonzalez Beasley Jones. Bradley Bedoya/klejstan. Dempsey. Donovan Altidore
  1. Zoe Willet
    commented on: February 3, 2014 at 1:25 p.m.
    No Zusi?
  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: February 3, 2014 at 2:19 p.m.
    How Wondo can be rated behind EJ defies all logic. Sure EJ is bigger and faster, but this is not a track meet or a basketball game. THE primary requirement for a goal scorer is the intelligence and instinct to be in the right place at the right time, and the work rate to make the run every time just in case the ball falls to you. And then the calm demeanor to slot it away when it falls to your feet. Wondo has all these abilities, and has demonstrated them over a period of years. EJ has not. The reality is that the USMNT has NO forward with the ability to take on good defenders, break them down, and score. Landon when he was young could on occasion, but no more. We now rely on team play, intelligence, and work rate. Wondo should be there in Brazil.
  1. Mark Konty
    commented on: February 3, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
    Because the US plays variants of the 4-2-3-1, most of the "forwards" you list can play any of the positions on the 3-line. Boyd and Altidore can't really play on the 3-line, and I'd say the same about Wondo unless the US decides to push the #10 up higher as they do from time to time. So its not really 7 guys for two sports, but three guys (Altidore, Boyd, Wondo) for one spot (target forward). But as a guy who can grab a late goal, Wondo could make it if he is in better form than EJ.
  1. itza hurtado
    commented on: February 3, 2014 at 10:44 p.m.
    Jozy has not been effective lately. THE SAD TRUTH! Donovan and Dempsey are. Can JK take a chance in a must win WC group match? I wouldn't mind watching the Ukraine game with a regular 4-4-2: forwards: Dempsey, Donovan mids: Beasley, Bradley, Jones, Zusi backs: Johnson,Gonzalez,Besler,Cameron GK: Howard Its the same 4-2-3-1, except without Jozy. I like Jozy and understand what he brings to the USMNT. He will probably play. Hope he is sharp though.
  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: February 4, 2014 at 12:42 a.m.
    I also would like to see Wondo with USNT in Brasil. I think he will a characteristic that we badly need up front.

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