For four years, Chris Wondolowski has toiled on the Houston Dynamo bench, hoping for an opportunity to play everyday.
While he has gotten opportunities off the bench, they have been few and far between, and the opportunities to start have been even sparser. As a result, the opportunity to start two games to open the 2009 MLS season has provided Wondolowski a unique opportunity that he hopes he can capitalize on.
In his fifth MLS season, Wondolowski has only started a total of nine MLS games, including last week's start against the Columbus Crew. That comes to a meager 725 total minutes since coming into the league out of Chico State University in California.
Houston's busy schedule though, has provided Wondo the opportunity to start in U.S. Open Cup and international matches in CONCACAF, where he has had some success. In addition, as captain of the reserve team last year, he played all 1080 minutes and helped lead the Dynamo reserves to the championship.
The suspension of forward Kei Kamara has provided Wondolowski a rare opportunity to start in two successive games to open the season. He hopes that he can finally make an impact with the chance.
"Absolutely. I had a couple of chances before, but it's on me to make the most of the opportunity," Wondolowski said. "It's definitely my chance to try to do what I can."
For Wondolowski, the MLS opener was a mixed bag. On one hand, he delivered an absolutely perfect pass to set up Brian Ching for the team's only goal. On the other hand, he had an open header and a shot from the top of the box that he did not put on frame. The forward though is his own harshest critic.
"Happy about getting the assist, but I wish I would have finished one of those chances," Wondolowski said. "I had a couple of pretty good opportunities so I am kind of bummed about that. [If I] put one of those away, [we] go up two-nothing, and it's a totally different game."
With Wondolowski looking to capitalize on the opportunity to start, the more interesting question might be who starts next to him in Saturday's game at San Jose. The two obvious options are Geoff Cameron and Brian Mullan, with the other likely playing right midfield.
Mullan didn't seem that enthused about the possibility of more time at forward. "Not my favorite place, but whatever I can do to help the team," he said.
Cameron's ability to play as more of a target forward like Ching would seem to make him a better natural partner for Wondolowski up top, but Cameron has played very little at forward himself.
"The first minutes I got at forward was in Hawaii," Cameron said. "I never played forward in my life."
Cameron though, doesn't seem to mind where he plays, as long as he is playing, he is happy. Regardless of whether it is Cameron or Mullan next to him, Wondolowski feels that Houston can get three points.
"We play with such a great system and are able to interchange guys, so we feel confident no matter what XI is out there or what formation we are playing," Wondolowski said. "We still have the same confidence, [we are] looking for three points."
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSnet.com.