STANFORD, Calif. – Of all the celebrations Thursday after US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann confirmed what the assembled group had begun to suspect – that they were the 23 members of the Americans’ 2014 World Cup squad – few could match the emotional intensity of the moment shared by Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis and San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski.
Close friends and vacation buddies from their time as teammates in both San Jose and Houston from 2005 to 2009, the thirtysomething MLS lifers were completely off the World Cup radar 18 months ago.
Now they’ve both got seats on the plane to Brazil.
“It kind of gave me chills,” Wondolowski said on Friday. “Right after, guys were kind of congratulating each other, and we kind of had a bromance moment where we locked eyes and gave each other a big hug.
"It was one of those things: relief, excitement, all those emotions just wrapped into one. We kind of hugged there, just because we know how much work the other has put into it, and how much it means to each other.”
Said Davis: “For us to be able to be sitting here with this opportunity – there was a big hug yesterday, for sure. A lot of emotion, for sure, for our families.”
For years, making a World Cup was something that Davis, 32, and Wondolowski, 31, would talk about in the abstract, as a sort of “How cool would that be?” kind of thing. After all, Davis had seen his US cap total top out at five, all earned between 2005 and 2010, and even admitted to himself that he thought the opportunity had passed him by – until Klinsmann called him into camp in January 2013.
“We both wanted it, I’ll tell you that. ... but you never know,” Davis said. “We definitely talked about it. We knew it was going to be unbelievably hard, [requiring a] lot of hard work put in. But it kind of proves, don’t ever shut the door on your dreams.”
Wondolowski certainly didn’t, even after his international career opened with a rocky series of misses in the 2011 Gold Cup. Scoring nine goals in his last 10 international matches – all in the last 11 months – drew high praise from Klinsmann, who might have seen a bit of his own cold-blooded, predatory game in Wondolowski.
“In every training session, he's first on the field and ready to go and wants to prove it,” Klinsmann said of Wondolowski. “He brings an enormous amount of energy in that group. He's just a giver. He always thinking about his teammates and about the others.
"He wants to score every single minute he's on the field, but when he sees someone in a better position than him, he'll pass that ball over to him. He absolutely deserves to be on that plane to Brazil and he's worked very, very hard for it.”
The hard work isn’t over, however. To Wondolowski, it’s only beginning.
“I want to push guys,” Wondolowski said. “I want to push the starters. I want to be a starter. I want to get time. I want to get minutes. That’s my focus, and just try to help the team any way I can.”
There’s one way to help the US squad and fulfill one final dream for the duo: Having Wondolowski convert off one of Davis’ patented left-footed crosses.
“That’s definitely been talked about,” Davis said. “We talk about that all the time, for sure. We talk about it even in training, the different times we got to hook up and go into January camp. There’s definitely jokes and laughs, but that would definitely be a great moment for us, if we were able to connect.”