NICK LEYDEN - Thursday, June 2, 2011
A 28 year old forward with a single cap and no international goals is not likely to garner an awful lot of attention from the USA's Gold Cup opponents, but Chris Wondolowski has made a career out of being overlooked.
If Canada, Panama and Guadeloupe do not familiarize themselves with the California native beforehand, there is a good chance they will be on an early flight home after he introduces himself on the field.
"The main thing is that he's a player that has good timing and movement on the field," explained Bob Bradley, who went on to highlight Wondolowski's versatility as his most dangerous asset in a recent interview with YA.
"He gets chances every game. If you were to look at the six goals that he has scored in MLS this year I think that it shows you an ability to score goals different ways," he said.
The San Jose Earthquakes sniper has taken a unique path to the Gold Cup, rising through the ranks of the US soccer hierarchy largely unnoticed, and bursting onto the scene in 2010.
After playing Division II ball at Chico State University, the California native had a brief stint with the Chico Rooks of the NPSL before playing four anonymous MLS seasons with San Jose and Houston.
Things changed in 2010, however, when Wondolowski was sent to San Jose for his second stint with the Earthquakes and ended up leading the league with 18 goals. As he told YA, the success was the result of a variety of factors.
"I think it just all came together. I learned a lot over the years. [At San Jose] I got consistent playing time, and had great players around me. Kind of a perfect storm right there," he said.
The accomplishments of the 2010 season led to a national team call-up this past January, culminating with his first and only cap in a 1-1 tie with Chile.
As Wondolowski told YA, he believes the opportunity to work with Bradley and staff during the winter break set him up for even greater success in 2011.
"I learned a lot. I mean to learn anything from this coaching staff is a great thing, just learning the little ins and outs, and little tidbits that help me as a player," he said.
With six goals already in the young MLS season, trailing only Landon Donovan, he has indeed capitalized on the "little ins and outs" and earned another call-up, this time with more meaningful games on the schedule.
"I'm very excited for it," he said. "It's a very prestigious tournament. We're going to try to do the best we can and try to maybe win it."
With only two other true forwards on the roster, Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore, the Californian is sure to add to his cap total during the Gold Cup, especially as Wondolowski is the only one of the three to be starting and scoring consistently at the club level.
Explaining why it has been as impossible for him to ignore Wondolowski as it will be for opposing defenses, Bradley concludes "When a striker shows you good movement and a knack for getting chances, combined with a good goal scoring record, it's a lot."