Chris Wondolowski looks like your best friend on your youth soccer team back in the day. That dark, floppy hair, boyish face, and boundless energy on the field are all a part of what makes him so enjoyable to watch. He may not have the physique of a Jozy Altidore or the speed of some of the best strikers, but Wondo gets the job done. He’s known as a “goal poacher”, which pretty much just means he knows how to get to the right place at the right time. He doesn’t score often from outside-the-box screamers or long, powerful runs with the ball. Wondo just finds a way to get the ball to the back of the net.
Wondolowski is a California boy through and through. He was born there, played high school and college soccer there, and is the San Jose Earthquakes all-time leading goal scorer. Still, he has had a late-blooming career. From 2006-09 he played for a Houston Dynamo squad that won the MLS Cup in both ’06 and ’07, but hardly figured into the action, only appearing in a handful of matches each season. Wondo would move to the Earthquakes in 2009, becoming a regular starter the next season.
At this point he was already 27, but committed to becoming an MLS star. After two very productive seasons, 2012 would be his coming-out party, when he poured in 27 goals in 31 starts. He was rewarded with a well-deserved MLS MVP. With 80 goals, he stands alone as the Earthquakes most prolific scorer.
Carrying that late-bloomer identity into his international game, Wondo didn’t start to shine for the Stars and Stripes until last summer. He started out his USMNT career in 2011 with nine goalless matches. However, his last 12 caps have featured nine goals and he has genuinely looked like a real offensive threat for the Americans. In fact, he was a key factor in USA’s 2013 Gold Cup title, tying Landon Donovan with five goals. Some may say he’s lucky to hit his stride right before a World Cup, making the team at 31 that he couldn’t sniff in his twenties. In reality, he’s a smart forward who has enough experience to not be shaken by the bright lights.
His nose for the goal is undoubtedly valuable for any team, especially a team that doesn’t have a truly consistent goalscorer. Jozy just got back on track versus Nigeria, but was in the midst of a Death Valley drought before that. The pre-World Cup friendlies seemed to show Clint Dempsey didn’t have his best touch and Johannsson has no guarantees of getting on the field (even though he probably should). Those are your forwards and the midfield behind them doesn’t contain any true scorers.
That’s where Wondo comes in. He’s an ideal late substitute because of his poacher abilities. His most recent USMNT goal was a good example of this, but let’s take a look at a goal he scored last year deep into a Earthquakes-Chivas match. Just imagine him doing this on a slightly bigger stage this summer.
Did You Know
- UCLA offered him a track scholarship.
- He’s half-Native American and has his Indian name tattooed on his side.
- Against Belize in last year’s Gold Cup, the kit man put an extra “W” on Wondo’s jersey. He scored a hat trick in that match and now wears that extra “W” on the inside of his USMNT jersey.