CARSON, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski isn’t going to lie: There were times over the past few months when he wondered if he’d ever make it back into a US national team uniform.
Despite bagging 34 goals over the past two seasons for the San Jose Earthquakes, the veteran forward hasn’t been able to live down an open sitter he muffed late in an eventual 2-1 loss to Panama in last summer’s Gold Cup. Then there was the massive turnover after Bob Bradley was replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann shortly afterward.
It was enough to make Wondo ponder the possibility that he’d worn the Red, White and Blue for the last time.
“You always have that wonder,” he admitted to MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “All you can really do is play as well as you can. Sometimes coaches have different mindsets and different systems and sometimes you don’t fit into that.”
But somewhere over the past few months, Wondolowski has done enough to attract Klinsmann’s attention, earning a spot in the first January camp under the new regime. Wondo’s MLS play continues to speak for itself – he remains one of the best finishers in the league – but the goal now, he says, is translating that to the international level and making sure he remains on Klinsmann’s radar.
He’s done his part so far in this camp, banging in a goal and adding an assist for the senior squad in last week’s 4-0 scrimmage victory over their Under-23 counterparts. Wondolowski admits that performance got a bit of the monkey off his back at the national team level, even if it wasn’t in an official game.
“Any time you score a goal at this level, it’s nice,” he said, “especially for me, because they come in bunches or [I go through] dry spells. Hopefully that can continue and I can really try to build off that.”
Wondolowski wants to win Klinsmann’s confidence, of course, and add to his five caps for the US. But there’s also a part of him that wants to put the memory of that blown opportunity against Panama behind him. He admits he replays that moment in his head often.
“But the way it runs through my head is kind of a motivational thing,” he explained. “It’s a humbling thing, but it’s one of those things that drives me. It keeps me going, makes me work harder.”
If Wondo’s hard work in this camp pays off, he may get a unique chance to atone for that miss against the very same opponent when the US travel to Panama City for a rematch in a friendly against Los Canaleros on Jan. 25. And maybe that’s the way it had to be drawn out, he says.
“To be truthfully honest, I really do believe everything happens for a reason, and I think I’ve grown as a player and a person from it,” he said. “I’m really hoping to get a crack at them again.”