Wondolowski's fairy tale gets new twist with US call

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Chris Wondolowski’s dreams of winning another MLS Golden Boot award will have to go on hiatus for a few weeks while an even bigger one gets fulfilled.Wondolowski, who sprang last season from relative obscurity to tally a league-leading 18 goals for the San Jose Earthquakes, was named Monday to the United States’ 23-man roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“A dream come true,” Wondolowski said of receiving his call last week from US coach Bob Bradley. “You always want to play for your country and represent them, especially in a tournament like this and [of] this magnitude. It’s pretty cool.”

It was another unlikely pinnacle reached by the 28-year-old, who dreamed of reaching this point as a youngster and had those hopes crystallized while watching the 1994 US World Cup squad.

What makes it all the more astounding is that 15 months ago, Wondolowski had clocked just 1,776 minutes in five MLS seasons and never played on any US youth national teams while growing up in nearby Danville, Calif.

“Fantastic,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said of Wondolowski’s achievement. “He’s continued his run from last year. He’s a bit of a late bloomer, if you like, and I think it’s correct to include him. He’s very dangerous and one of the hot strikers in the league right now.”

Wondolowski is tied for third in MLS with five goals, and Bradley made it clear that was one of the reasons he got the call despite having just one international cap, from a Jan. 22 friendly against Chile.

“We felt strongly that Chris Wondolowski is in good form, has scored some very good goals, different kind of goals,” Bradley said in a conference call on Monday. “Chris seems to be a player that gets a couple of chances every game.”

Wondolowski has used the Quakes’ first 10 regular-season matches to showcase his variety of skills. He scored twice with his head — including a high-degree-of-difficultly touch header while his momentum carried him over the end line against Chivas USA — and done so off of full and half-volleys. To convert a pass on the ground, he delivered a perfectly-placed back heel without a moment’s hesitation.

But there were other factors at play as well. Bradley hinted that D.C. United’s Charlie Davies — one of the players ahead of Wondolowski, with six goals this year — was not likely to make the team even if he hadn’t suffered a late hamstring injury, citing Davies’ lack on contributions off the ball.

Those areas are a Wondolowski specialty, especially in comparison to other top strikers.

“We look at his goal-scoring and think he’s just that, but he’s a good soccer player; very clean feet, good passer of the ball, very good in the air,” Yallop said. “It’s great he’s on our team, that’s for sure.”

If not for the surprise reemergence of Freddy Adu, Wondolowski’s name would undoubtedly the one most often on the lips of US fans wondering why he got that spot and not another player. Wondolowski wants to take any such critics head-on.

“Hopefully, I can prove to them, if I get a chance, why I do belong there,” Wondolowski said. “I’m going to do everything I can to prove that, and show that the coaching staff and coach Bradley made a good decision.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes