Just when you thought it was over, the Chris Wondolowski era is alive and well.
The first roster Bruce Arena assembled for a competitive set of matches didn’t include the San Jose Earthquakes striker. A lot of folks thought that was signaling that Wondo wasn’t part of Arena’s plans and that he had decided to go with more youthful players like Jordan Morris instead. Well after Morris got injured, dreams were dashed and the much-maligned 34-year-old got the late call-up anyways.
Fast forward to May and Wondolowski is on fire. Last night he put on a great performance against a very good Portland Timbers side, scoring twice and adding an assist. And it’s not even like he’s scoring easy tap-ins either. He’s scoring exceptional goals like this one:
Wondo gives San Jose a 2-0 lead! #SJvPOR pic.twitter.com/LtPYFMJL10— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 7, 2017
I mean, that’s just a damn fine finish. That puts him on four goals and five assists already this season. All the old declarations about why Wondo shouldn’t be called up are still true. He’s never done it against legit international competition. He’s only good in MLS. Blah, blah, blah. I agree with all of it. The fact remains that he’s still putting up numbers at an impressive rate and Arena isn’t ready to move on quite yet.
Barring injury, there’s a more than good chance you see Wondolowski’s name on the call-up sheet for the friendly and two World Cup qualifiers in June. He’ll most likely be used in the same role he has for the past four years, in a substitute’s role.
No matter how you look at it, the younger strikers haven’t done enough to push him out of his role. Jordan Morris hasn’t gotten off to a flying start in his sophomore year. Juan Agudelo is wildly inconsistent. Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson are either injured or out of favor. Dom Dwyer doesn’t have the experience. Gyasi Zardes is not very good at soccering. CJ Sapong is one possible option, but he’s a striker of Jozy Altidore’s mold and seems redundant as a substitute for him. The cold hard facts are that Wondo’s resume is still superior to the other candidates and will likely find a way to sneak onto another USMNT roster once again. This summer’s Gold Cup can be used to find strikers to move up the depth chart.
I don’t like it. You don’t like it. But it’s time to prepare for the inevitable. Wondolowski is a mange house cat that’s chewed through electrical cords, jumped in the bath tub, fought with the dog, and run away from home but he still has at least one life left in him this summer.