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US Notebook: Age no issue for late bloomer Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

It might be tough at times for Chris Wondolowski to say it these days, but age simply ain’t nothing but a number.

The San Jose Earthquakes striker is back in the US national team fold for the foreseebale future, after learning Friday that he’s part of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster for five upcoming matches this month and in June.

The difference between Wondolowski and some of his compatriots, though? He was probably working a paper route on the streets of Concord, Calif., when some of his teammates were still in the nursery.

At 29 years old and with seven US caps all earned since 2011, Wondolowski is probably the latest bloomer of all on the US team. And that’s saying something, considering former MLSer and current Mexican pro Herculez Gomez can make a similar claim after reenergizing his career in the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup just around his 28th birthday.

But even though Wondolowski is breaking through at the same time of two men eight years his junior – striker Terrence Boyd and rising star Joe Corona are just 21 – Klinsmann isn’t worried that the Earthquakes star can’t keep up with some of the men trying to take his playing time.

Just ask 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, who was sent packing from US camp to season his game with Chivas USA while Wondolowski readied for the US team’s matchup against Scotland on Saturday (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).

“He’s a goalscorer, he’s hungry for goals,” Klinsmann said of Wondolowski during a conference call with reporters on Friday. “He doesn’t stop running, he doesn’t stop fighting. He knows there are areas where he can get to the next level … but he deserves to be in this camp because he’s done tremendously over the last couple months.”

Wondolowski was part of Klinsmann’s camp in January and earned one start out of two friendlies. That was his first taste of the new regime for the US team after he failed to capitalize on his MLS success during a shot with the Americans during the Gold Cup last summer.

But that’s all washed clean in the eyes of Klinsmann, who will likely lean on Wondolowski at some point in the next five games while the team awaits the arrival of incumbent striker Jozy Altidore and a clean bill of health for Clint Dempsey.

“Age is not really relevant to me, to be honest,” Klinsmann said. “[Wondolowski] is tremendously fit, he’s sharp, and he’s experienced. He understands now better and better what it takes to be an international striker, and he’s hungry for information.

“It’s fun for us coaches to see that he embraces all the tools that we try to give him,” Klinsmann added. “It’s really down to the players what they want to make out their careers, no matter if they’re 18 or 19 years old or they’re Chris Wondolowski at 29 or 30.”

Cameron an option off the bench

Houston Dynamo center back Geoff Cameron likely won’t start in the US team’s matchup against Scotland, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t drawn rave reviews in his short time with Klinsmann’s squad.

The US coach said Friday that veterans Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra are the presumed starters on Saturday, but that Cameron has asserted himself as a legitimate option for the future.

“Geoff is knocking at the door for the two center back positions,” Klinsmann said. “We feel strongly about Carlos and Gooch, and then [Clarence Goodson] and Geoff are right there, right behind them. We see him in the center back role, not the defensive midfield role. And he proved his case in the January camp and also with his club team.”

Cameron started both games during Klinsmann’s January camp and went as an unused sub in the team’s historic win over Italy in March.

“He has a real huge potential,” Klinsmann said. “I was highly impressed, we were all highly impressed. He’s ready for the next level.”