SAN DIEGO – It took 12 games, but Chris Wondolowski is finally on the board for his country.
The San Jose Earthquakes and US national team forward notched his first career international goal Friday in a 6-0 friendly win over Guatemala at Qualcomm Stadium, the national team’s only tune-up before starting Gold Cup play on Tuesday in Portland against Belize.
And for Wondolowski, who received a deflected pass from Landon Donovan and buried a low shot in the 71st minute, the monkey was off his back as he scored.
READ: Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned about staying classy in San Diego
“To see that chance go through, I was pretty excited,” Wondolowski explained to reporters after the game. “It’s always a huge honor to represent your country, but to get a goal on top of that, it’s a great feeling.”
One of the criticism of the reigning MLS MVP prior to match had to do with his struggles in replicating the scoring prowess that has seen him score 66 MLS goals since the start of 2010 on the international stage. With this goal in the books, he’s starting to silence the critics.
And though it may have been a friendly, but US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann also expressed relief at the striker’s tally.
“It’s a special day for Wondo, he waited so long for this goal,” the coach said during the postgame press conference.
Klinsmann, a forward himself in his playing days, hailed the qualities Wondolowski brings to the national team, though stressed the need to score goals.
READ: Is he back? Donovan's confidence grows with brace vs. Guatemala
“He’s a fighter, he’s a warrior up front,” Klinsmann explained. “Wondo is an amazing character. He’s a pure giver. Still, he’s a striker and he needs goals.”
And as a fellow forward, Klinsmann seemed to be genuinely happy for the 30-year-old: “It’s great for him to have that reward tonight. It’s really wonderful.”
For his part, Wondolowski indicated Klinsmann’s support helped him through his international scoreless drought: “It’s great that he has confidence in me, I think that’s really helped me."