Earthquakes stars Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson seem bent on making it exceedingly difficult for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to leave them off the flight to Brazil.
The two 31-year-olds had an air of confidence and excitement on Wednesday at Stanford as the national team kicked off its final camp before the World Cup.
Wondo and Goodson have spent the past few years making a strong case, but their spots on the 23-man roster won’t be secured until Klinsmann makes his final seven cuts. Team USA will play the first of three exhibitions against Azerbaijan on May 27 at Candlestick Park.
Goodson and Wondo said they were “excited” to get started before Wednesday’s practice session. Wondo seems to relish every minute of being a part of the national team.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “Any time you get to put on this crest over your heart and be part of this and represent your country, it’s the ultimate dream, and especially to do that at, hopefully, the World Cup.”
What would it mean to Goodson to make the World Cup team again?
“It would mean everything to my career as a professional, of course,” Goodson said. “I worked hard to make the last World Cup and that was wonderful, but this is gonna be the biggest one ever, the biggest World Cup ever. I want to be a part of that and, hopefully, to step on the field and represent our country.”
With a bunch of tough decisions still to make, Klinsmann said he’s looking forward to working with Wondo over the next three weeks. The emerging international has nine goals in his past 10 USA matches.
Now that he’s been around Wondo for awhile, Klinsmann sounds a lot like anyone else who’s observed the Danville native up close during his career.
“He gives 1,000 percent,” Klinsmann said recently. “He has built his own case, and built it stronger and stronger. He’s determined. You give him a 1 percent chance, and he wants to make it 100 percent by the end of the day. He will be one of the drivers in camp.”
As far as being on the “bubble” on a crowded front line, Wondo seems unfazed.
“I don’t get worried about numbers, or where I stand, who’s ahead or me and who’s behind me,” Wondo said. “I know if I improve and play to the best of my ability, that’s all I can ask for and that’s what I plan to do right now.”
Wondo’s coming-of-age story is well-chronicled. He starred at De La Salle, walked on at Chico State, and eventually became one of the country’s very best finishers after being traded back to the Quakes from Houston in 2010. He has 77 goals in MLS dating to the beginning of the 2010 season.
Goodson, like Wondo, is a shining of example of what can happen if you won’t take no for an answer. The slim 6-foot-4 center back, a serious-minded professional, saw his stock rise playing for IK Start in Norway and Brondby IF in Denmark from 2008 to ’13, after excelling with Dallas in MLS beginning in 2004. He has been in the U.S. national team rotation since 2008, being selected in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
After joining the Quakes in midseason of last year, Goodson was part of a back line that allowed only two goals in all competitions over the final two months of the season.
The USA defenders in camp lack World Cup game experience, but Goodson doesn’t seem concerned.
“You look at what the team was able to do with whoever’s been playing in the past couple of years,” he said. “We’ve had some phenomenal results against some very, very good opponents. We’re all professionals.”
Additionally, Goodson also said the competition for spots won’t end even after the final 23 players are selected, because then you want to make the starting 11.
Half of the 30-player USA roster in camp is composed of MLS players, a fact that could speak to the league’s rise in quality.
“I think that MLS has done a good job growing over the last few years, especially the last four years,” Wondo said. “It’s indicative of the guys on this roster now and who we have out there. The play has gotten better and it translates to the national level as well.”
What advice does Wondo have for a young player who dreams of standing where he is today?
“Just keep believing,” he said. “You have to work hard; it doesn’t become easy.”
- Richter Media