CARSON, Calif – Chris Wondolowski, who made his way to the US national team later than most in his profession, has had to treat every January camp like his last.
Back in the mix in this year's edition after a national team regime change, Wondolowski has not changed his mindset to playing for his country. The 33-year-old forward, who was included in new head coach Bruce Arena's first squad earlier this month, continues to appreciate the new opportunities.
“It’s always exciting when there’s a new slate,” said Wondolowski. “I still have that same approach and the same mindframe where I’m going to enjoy it and give everything I have. Because it could be my last, and no regrets.”
Although things didn’t go quite as planned for the Earthquakes in 2016, Wondolowski hit a number of milestones that speak to his consistency and longevity. That included double-digit goals for a seventh straight year, a feat no other MLS player has accomplished, and he’s also just the second player in MLS history to score against 21 different clubs.
The US's current winter camp marks the first time Wondolowski has worked with Arena for an extended period, but the two of them are more than familiar with each other after years of competing in MLS. Wondolowski didn’t get his first national team call-up until 2011, later making Jurgen Klinsmann’s FIFA World Cup roster in Brazil in 2014.
Arena has always been known as a players' manager, and that is something that Wondolowski sees to enjoy.
“We haven’t necessarily had many individual talks or things like that, but I really like the messages that he’s given the team," said Wondolowski. “He really believes in the team camaraderie in the locker room. That’s something that we need and something that we’re working on.”
Back in San Jose, rumors are floating that the club is in pursuing some big names, like Club América striker Darwin Quintero or Ivory Coast’s Salomon Kalou. Wondolowski is aware of the rumblings, and the prospect of adding some more finishers to a squad that was last in goals scored in 2016 is a thrilling development to the former MLS Golden Boot winner, whose main goal for 2017 is winning.
“[I’m] very excited,” said Wondolowski. “We’re starting to make the right moves, starting to make big splashes. That’s something that we’ve needed to do and I’m excited about the guys we’re bringing in.”