When San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski reported for the most recent United States national team camp, he came without an international goal to his name.
Three matches, six goals and an extra "W" later, the Major League Soccer veteran is riding the best international run of his career.
Proper perspective is crucial here, of course—those three matches were against Guatemala, Belize and Cuba, after all—but as the U.S. continues its push for a continental title in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Wondolowski is looking increasingly likely to succeed in his push for a place in coach Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup roster.
That must mean the extra "W" was short for "winning."
Wondolowski, 30, scored his first international goal in his 10th senior international appearance, a 6-0 U.S. win over Guatemala in a July 5 friendly.
Following his breakthrough goal, he bagged a first-half hat-trick in the rout of Belize and added two more—including a tasty volleyed strike—against Cuba on Saturday.
The scoring flurry has helped the San Jose Earthquakes forward make American soccer history while ending a drought that had lasted more than two years.
While 10 matches might not seem like a long wait for a first international goal, it must have represented an almost endless span for Wondolowski, who was six days short of his 28th birthday when he received his first cap in January 2011.
Throughout 2011 and 2012, he alternated goalless appearances in January and June, never receiving an extended run in the American team.
Then, in 2012, "Wondo" posted a breakthrough season, scoring 27 goals and earning MLS MVP honors. Still, the scoring drought continued at the international level, as Wondolowski was left off the U.S. roster for 2014 World Cup qualifying.
The drought ended against Guatemala, and soon after, the floodgates opened.
In the Gold Cup opener against Belize, he scored three times in the first half—all while wearing a jersey with a misspelled name.
Not that the error seemed to bother him. The next time out, after comedian and U.S. soccer fan Drew Carey bought the "Wondowlowski" jersey, Wondo scored twice more while wearing a jersey with an extra "W" sewn into the lining.
The first goal, a classy, angled volley, highlighted Wondolowski's new confidence at the international level (see video below).
“I’m very confident in my play,” Wondolowski told the Associated Press (h/t The Seattle Times). “Just even getting the goals is so huge.”
Wondolowski has a point. Even after scoring the hat-trick against Belize, he started the Cuba match on the bench. And despite his recent goal glut, Wondolowski is hardly guaranteed a place on the U.S. World Cup roster, should the team qualify as expected.
That said, six goals in three games—including five in two tournament outings—won't do him any harm, either. Jozy Altidore, who posted a similar scoring record recently in World Cup qualifying, currently ranks as the team's first choice at striker.
Beyond Altidore, however, competition is king. While his place might not necessarily be secure, Wondo has clearly made an impression already this summer.
“He’s hungry, and he’s working a lot," Klinsmann said. "It’s not only that he has the instincts to know where the ball will be in the box. It’s also the runs he makes to open things up.”
If he maintains this pace, Wondo could just open up a spot for himself next year in Brazil.
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