The inclusion of Chris Wondolowski on the U.S. Men’s National Team is always a topic of conversation, despite his overwhelming success on the field for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Wondolowski is just one goal shy of becoming the first player in league history to score 10 or more goals in seven (7!) consecutive seasons. No one else has ever accomplished the feat in six seasons, and only two have done so in five. He is the epitome of consistency, durability and reliability.
Despite his age, Wondolowski, 33, runs around the pitch like a man 10 years his junior. He has failed to finish a match he started just four times since the start of the 2012 season, one of which was the day after a flight from Philadelphia to Vancouver due to USMNT duty.
Off the field, he is just as important, providing leadership and morale as pointed out by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"Wondo is for us an extremely important player, and not only on the field, also off the field," said Klinsmann. "He is a guy that runs the locker room, he's a guy that pushes the other players, especially younger players.
"That's why we're extremely thrilled and happy to have Wondo always with us because he's an absolutely team player."
Very few players hold standards for themselves as high as Wondolowski. He takes every situation he finds himself in seriously, whether it be a simple kick around with teammates or a Decision Day derby. His win-the-day attitude drew praise from Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin earlier this season.
“I can remember back when he was playing in the reserve league for Houston a long time ago,” Curtin explained to the Philadelphia media. “He was in that league for a couple years. And talk about a story for kids that you never know when your chance is going to come and when you get it, take it. And now he’s on his way to surpassing Landon [Donovan] in goals in our league, which is unbelievable.
“I can remember coming off an injury and playing against him in the reserve league and I probably, maybe wasn’t the most motivated player because I was starting for Chicago, coming off an injury and I didn’t really want to be there. And there was this kid out there that was just so intense, a pain in the butt to play against, just ran hard in the box, was fighting for everything and you’re kind of looking at him going, ‘What is this kid doing out here? He’s crazy. This is just a reserve league game.’ He’s had a heck of a career since then. He’s been an MVP in our league. It’s a great story. He’s as good as anyone at arriving in the box, runs as hard as anyone, will sacrifice his body. Great player, great career, great professional and a really good person too if you sit down and talk to him. Can’t say enough about him.”
Klinsmann recognizes the same thing. Wondolowski pushes everyone to work that much harder, to be that much more precise. And he’s not just a practice player for the National Team, but a legitimate threat that is clearly undervalued for his skillset on the field. There is a notion that he only scores against lesser international competition, but that simply isn’t true. He has tallied against Mexico (#14), Korea Republic (#48) and twice against Guatemala (#82), all reputable squads ranked in the top 85 by FIFA.
In fact, his 10 goals are the most by any player that made his USMNT debut in 2011 or later. Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood have scored six, Graham Zusi has scored five, and Aron Jóhannsson has scored four to round out the top five.
Whether Wondolowski plays significant minutes in these qualifiers or not, his presence there will certainly make the team better. And don’t be surprised if he’s able to find the back of the net once again.