Chris Wondolowski has had a dream season. He finally broke out this year with a league-leading 18 goals and almost single-handedly led San Jose to the playoffs, where they will try and pull out a win at New York tonight. He has shown the ability to score and lead a team, and with the national team gearing up for a friendly in South Africa later this month, should Wondo be included on that team?
Bob Bradley recently has looked at MLS play as an indicator of who he should call-up for the team. As we all know, Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley both earned call-ups because of their successes with LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, respectively. And we all know how that turned out – neither made much of an impact in South Africa and, in some cases, may have hurt the squad.
One reason that Wondo should get a call-up is the utter lack of depth at his position for the national team. Looking at the roster, the only guaranteed lock to start is Clint Dempsey, who has been impressive in England this year. Jozy Altidore has also been written into the ideal starting lineup, but his play in South Africa was rather disheartening. He is young, so he has time to grow into the role, but as we know with young players he may or may not turn out to be what the US team needs. Wondo should be given a shot if for no other reason than Bradley has so few options that he needs to see if he can find someone, anyone, who can create scoring chances for the team. Seemingly the Quakes forward can do that.
But if the Quakes lose tonight, will he get the invitation? Consider the opposite argument against his call-up. Before this season, Wondolowski showed potential, but nothing more. He has been the surprise of the league, but is he a flash in the pan? Is he a more talented Maykel Galindo? Another knock against him may be his playoff performance. If the Quakes lose to New York, will he be penalized? In the first match he failed to score against a good Red Bulls backline, and with the return leg in New York, it will be harder to pull out that victory. A failure in the playoffs could lead to some doubts about his big-game ability.
Also, Bob Bradley could go a different direction. His Edson Buddle/Robbie Findley experiment so far has proven to be a failure, so he may shy away from mid-career MLS strikers and go much younger by selecting a player like Juan Agudelo or Omar Salgado. Or Bob Bradley could simply stick with Altidore and Dempsey, work Charlie Davies back into the starting lineup, and hope his recent call ups like Brek Shea can become contributors, or continue to develop Buddle, Findley, and Eddie Johnson.
But I hope he picks Wonodolowski and gives him a chance, regardless of how the playoffs turn out. What’s the worst that could happen?