Bill Buckner. Chris Webber. Chris Wondolowski. Players with great careers, but defined by an unfortunate moment.
For long-time Major League Soccer watchers and supporters, the Wondo addition to the US Men’s National Team in Brazil was well deserved. Every US-born MLS MVP in a four-year World Cup cycle should have a legitimate opportunity to make the squad. To miss out on being considered for the squad is a slap in the face to the league and individual.
In 2012, Wondolowski had the greatest season for a goal scorer in MLS history finishing with a record 27 goals and lifting the Supporter’s Shield. The Goonies were dismissed for not winning the MLS Cup, and playing unattractive bunkered in, route 1 soccer. They eventually lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the season long presumed favorites with Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Robbie Keane.
In 2013, on a broken foot, which was not known until season’s end, Wondo put in 11 goals in MLS and 6 for the USMNT. Wondo would not miss the opportunity to perform in his first tournament. He split the Gold Cup’s Golden Boot with Panama’s Gabriel Torres and Golden Ball winner Donovan.
But that miss against Belgium in the World Cup defines him for too many people. The miss that would have advanced the US to the round of 16, tarnished a legacy of a late bloomer from Chico State University. A career that blossomed at the age of 27 with a move from the Houston Dynamos to the re-launch of the San Jose Earthquakes.
MLS and US fans without those spotty memories that come in four-year cycles, know Wondo would have gotten into the right place at the right time and score for the US. He became San Jose’s first US-born Designated Players and carried them in that 2012 season due in part to those smarts. He scores those goals at least 9 of out 10 times… Arena Fonte Nova was the location of the one time.
He was unofficially the last USMNT forward taken. The spot many thought was cemented in stone for Donovan, at least at the end of the 2012 season. Wondo was not guaranteed a spot despite being the MLS MVP, especially not on Bob Bradley’s US team. But Jurgen Klinsmann recognized the hard work and achievements, and Wondo earned his spot and trust due to his merit.
As much as the recently retired Jay Demerit is a brilliant US soccer story, Wondo is too. ‘The miss’ mangled the movie moment.
This is a column, perhaps, better published five or six weeks ago. Yet, the announcement of Donovan’s retirement means that Wondo is the US’s elder statesman in MLS. He is a MLS-lifer like Landon after his first few years from Bayer Leverkusen. Though Wondo’s was not by choice. Donovan’s legacy as both MLS and USMNT’s greatest will last for the unforeseen future. Wondo can chase Donovan’s ghost, but only in MLS.
The 31 year-old has been dismissed by the hyper-critical and unfamiliar as a poacher. A beneficiary of the Bash Brothers, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart’s scraps. However, if you have not noticed this season, Mark Watson is on a quest to evolve the Earthquakes from route 1 to a counterattacking side with flare and speed
Djaló , Matías Pérez García, and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi can push the Quakes into the playoffs. Nevertheless, Wondo is the link in the chain. The 31-year old may find his next chapter as a playmaker, which is not uncommon in this league.
While Landon will leave the league with tread on the tires, Wondo will likely go with several patches, a leaky valve stem, and a nail too close to the wall. Is he too far behind to seriously threaten the all-time MLS goal record? The 100 goal mark at end of the 2015 season is a realistic prospect. He would be 32 years old, all he would need is to average double-digit goals for the next four years and…
Of course no number of goals in MLS, and no statistic in US soccer will overtake the memory of the miss in Salvador. Regardless, that should not diminish his newly thrust upon status as the MLS elder statesman, whether he or the fans are willing to accept it. Unlike Bill Buckner and Chris Webber, who had borderline hall of fame careers, Wondo can finish his career as one of the greatest in Major League Soccer’s short history.
And maybe the miss won’t be in the first or last paragraph in his retirement story.
This Week’s Throw-In:
With the extra work required as executive producer of the Homegrown podcast, our home for domestic soccer, something had to give. So back by popular demand…
- I had a passionate, yet sarcastic, piece in the queue after the MLS all-star game. I shelved it, but as someone who loved tiki-taka in its prime and idealized Pep Guardiola’s coaching I was, like everyone else, massively disappointed/disgusted. Shame on me as an adult to have a living idol.
- Philadelphia Union have a stockpile of goalkeepers and the Portland Timbers flush with forwards. PTFC may trust Donovan Ricketts this season, but the long view calls for a replacement. Why not another Jamaican keeper? No, yeah I wouldn’t trade Maximiliano Urruti for Andre Blake or Zac McMath. Montreal? Toronto? Anyone need a goalie?
- Chivas USA’s 4-game losing streak is related to the loss of their centerbacks Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling, they’ve missed 3 and 5 straight games, respectively. Only scoring 3 goals in 5 matches doesn’t help either.