San Jose Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski, Clarence Goodson say quick start crucial for USMNT chances

Given the way the San Jose Earthquakes dug themselves a giant hole in the first half of 2013, getting off to a fast start this season will be an imperative for the rebranded club.

And for Quakes stars Clarence Goodson and Chris Wondolowski, there’s more than just a potential playoff spot hinging on those results.

With just two friendlies left on the US national team’s schedule before World Cup preparation kicks off in May, Goodson and Wondolowski will depend in part on their club form to serve as final arguments for their inclusion on USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man roster.

“Absolutely, the time’s dwindling down, so anytime you do get an opportunity, you have to try to make the most of it,” said Wondolowski, who did just that with a brace against South Korea on Feb. 1. “Whether there were a lot of friendlies or not, the time here [with San Jose], it’s going to be very important. I have to continue to try to get better and show well and have a good start to the season.”

That would behoove both Wondolowski and the Quakes.

San Jose, possibly resting on the laurels of their 2012 Supporters’ Shield, sleepwalked through a 3-6-6 start last year, a stretch that helped push then coach Frank Yallop out the door and cost the Earthquakes a shot at the playoffs.

“We were just kind of waiting for things to happen, and talking about it, but not acting on it,” Wondolowski said. “And I think it finally took the second half of the year for us to realize we can’t just talk about it – we have to start walking the walk. And I thought we did. We’re not waiting for anything to happen this year.”

Although the strenuous national-team camp meant less downtime for Goodson and Wondolowski this winter, it also put them ahead of the curve, fitness-wise, from most of their MLS counterparts.

For Goodson, this month offers a chance to blend in with teammates in a way he didn’t get last year, joining San Jose in midstream.

“It’s great to be able to go through a preseason with the team, be able to start fresh and not just try to fit in quickly,” Goodson said. “We were kind of trying to do it on the fly last year, and obviously we ended the season well, but … [it helps] having training matches that are a little less intense, things where you can try some things and work things out, where we didn’t have that opportunity last year.

"It was just trying to win games and we were in a desperate situation almost from Day 1.”

From Goodson’s perspective, the notion of making a good final impression on Klinsmann isn’t foremost among his motivations for 2014.

“I always try to keep a high level, no matter what, whether it’s Gold Cup or World Cup [on the horizon],” Goodson said. “That’s just part of being a professional, giving everything that you have. It shouldn’t be because there’s an added bonus, you do more. It should be the same [effort] all the time.

"Either you’re a pro or you’re not. That’s kind of the way I look at it.”