Earthquakes SuperDraft selection JJ Koval sounded excited when he discussed Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson the other day.
The former Stanford star is learning soccer at a higher level in Earthquakes preseason training, and the arrival of Wondo and Goodson last week in Tucson, Ariz., made a good thing even better.
“I can already tell that these guys are big parts of the team,” the young midfielder said of the two U.S. national team players. “Obviously, I haven’t been a part of the team for very long, but you can just tell that these guys are definitely leaders in different ways. It was a pleasure to play with them in the second game against Houston. I was on the field at the same time as both Clarence and Wondo, and it was cool to be out there.”
Of course, Wondo made a “cool” statement with his stirring performance in the United States’ 2-0 win over South Korea in a friendly on Feb. 1 at the StubHub Center, scoring two goals with opportunistic finishes.
The international soccer world is now opening its eyes to what the Quakes family has known about Wondo all along. He is a big-time finisher.
“Wondo’s Wondo,” Goodson said. “He scores goals. He does a lot of the dirty work. He’s got a great work rate. He does a lot of the things that don’t show up on the scoreboard, but still, he scores a heck of a lot of goals. That’s something that every single team needs. That’s what he can do. Every time he goes to the national team, he scores goals. What else can you do from his perspective?”
After practice on Tuesday, Wondo smiled and said he was excited to be back. He rejoined the team in Tucson on Friday after national team training, including a memorable World Cup preview trip to Sao Paolo, Brazil.
"It's just good to get back with everyone and catch up, hear the stories," Wondo said. "It's always good."
Smooth and agile at 6-foot-4, Goodson is similar to Wondo in that he keeps powering through road blocks in his career.
“People tell you that you can’t, and you let them believe what they want, and you just keep working hard and you prove to them otherwise,” Goodson said. “That’s a little bit the way I made the last World Cup, and it will probably be the same this summer.”
In addition to their obvious soccer strengths, Wondo and Goodson are “very good guys, very kind and welcoming,” Koval said. “I know that I will learn a lot from them.”
Wondo and Goodson are giving the team’s newcomers and returning players high marks.
“We still have the core mentality and the same pieces in place,” Wondolowski said. “We added some great guys that can really help us, and so I’m excited for this season and looking forward to it.”
“It’s been good,” Goodson said. “Everyone seems to be in good spirits. A lot of guys are coming back from whatever offseason surgeries that they’ve had, and the team is really starting to come together. We’ve got some good draft picks and some good trialists as well. Things are looking up for us.”
A key newcomer on the back line is Brandon Barklage, who helped New York to a Supporter’s Shield last year. Trialist Andreas Gorlitz, a defender from Germany, also appears to be panning out.
“He looks good,” coach Mark Watson said of Gorlitz. “He’s played at a very high level. We’re excited to have him into preseason and through training and games. He’s looked very sharp.”
Goodson and Wondo agree that if the Quakes can start the next season in the way they ended the last one, life will be good.
“We were so close, and especially the way that we ended the season,” Goodson said. “We feel if we can do that for the course of the whole season - if we do that, then we’ll be one of the best teams in MLS. That’s really what’s needed. That’s certainly the goal.”
Goodson described the experience in Brazil as positive. Despite concerns that Brazil isn’t ready to host the big event, Goodson found everything to be top class.
As the Quakes' attack finds its way, the defense should be formidable again. Quakes center back Victor Bernardez is set to represent Honduras in the World Cup. Bernardez has been a constant presence in Quakes’ camp. Wondolowski and Goodson appear to be razor sharp and brimming with confidence.
“We come in and, hopefully, are fit and playing at a high level,” Goodson said, “It’s something that we try and bring to this team. The guys just started, but I think the level has been very good from what I’ve experienced. Any time that we can up that a few notches, that’s only going to make us all better.”
He added that the Quakes have some “very good” players and will be a hard-working unit. They will need to stay healthy to achieve their goals, just like everyone else in the league.
“We’ll be a team that will score some goals and a team that won’t need to score two or three goals,” Goodson said. “We can let one goal win a game and just be tough and hard to play against; win not just at home, but on the road. Last year, it took us too long to get points on the road.”
Watson is thrilled to have Wondolowski and Goodson back in camp and likes what he’s seeing up and down the roster.
“We had a pretty strong team in the first half against Houston. I was really happy with the performance,” Watson said. “I thought we moved the ball well and showed some of the things we’ve been working on, but it’s still preseason, so your main goal is fitness. All the things you are working on, you kind of want to see a gradual progression throughout the course of the preseason.”
- Richter Media