What the Emergence of Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski Means for Team USA
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For the first time in what seems like forever, the United States men's national soccer team has options.
Team USA spent years focusing on a simple philosophy: bunker down on defense, don't let a goal in and hope that Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey find a way to work their magic.
Those days, fortunately for Stars and Stripes supporters everywhere, have apparently come to an end.
While Donovan and Dempsey are most definitely the two most important United States players, the Yanks have finally found other contributors who can step in and bang in goals when necessary.
The first of these is obviously Jozy Altidore, who has stepped up and finally retaken his first team place with a stretch that included four goals in 17 days.
However, the Yanks have also seemingly found two other players that can step in and contribute on the scoresheet in Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson, who have both used this summer's stretch of games to play themselves into Jurgen Klinsmann's plans.
Wondo has used his call-up to the United States Gold Cup roster as a rebirth of sorts, as this was most likely his final chance to impress. After years of international ineptitude, it finally appears as though it has clicked for the always-dangerous Wondo, who was last season's MLS Golden Boot winner.
The San Jose Earthquake target-man started off his summer by firing in a friendly against Guatemala, and then followed that up with an explosive five goals in two games in the opening rounds of the Gold Cup. Despite famously sporting a misspelled jersey, Wondo has finally given USMNT fans a reason to remember his name when it comes to scoring options.
Joining him is Eddie Johnson, who has scored three goals of his own so far this summer, including one in a World Cup Qualifying matchup with Sunday's opposition, Panama.
The Seattle Sounders forward has resurrected his career in the MLS after a failed European stint. Johnson is clearly more confident since returning from his experience abroad, as he has used his speed to time runs that very few American players could match.
But at the end of the day, what does it all mean? Altidore appears to be the starter, leaving limited minutes for the pair, no matter how many goals they score.
The two still can provide a major boost to the national team. Altidore will be plying his trade in the Premier League this season, starting over in what has come to be known as one of the world's most physical leagues. A club injury leading up to next summer's World Cup could thrust Wondolowski or Johnson into the spotlight in Brazil.
The two also provide a major boost for the reputation of the perennially underrated MLS. The pair have demonstrated that MLS players cannot only break into the national side, but they can also be looked upon to contribute. Wondo and EJ, along with Graham Zusi, have shown that MLS players are just as good as any other players in the pool and that it may not be necessary to make the jump into Europe's elite leagues to remain in the United States plans.
U.S has depth at forward. Eddie Johnson, Altidore, Dempsey, Wondolowski, Donovan. We might actually do pretty well in Brazil next summer.— Mitchell Johnston (@mjsoccer) July 24, 2013
Don't care what color Eddie Johnson dyes his hair or what weather symbol he shaves in it. He's going to Brazil if he keeps scoring like that— Christopher Spiker (@RealChrisSpiker) July 24, 2013
What the Gold Cup taught me: Wondo is definitely going to Brazil, Corona is going to be the greatest American player ever, and LD is back.— Abram C (@MindOfAbram) July 22, 2013
At the end of the day, both Johnson and Wondolowski have both contributed admirably to their national side. Both have scored goals when called upon, and both have shown what can be done with a second chance. Recent performances should show US fans that they have nothing to fear if they see one of the two featuring in Brazil, while also showing that no one should be surprised to see the name of Johnson or Wondolowski running towards the corner in celebration after scoring yet another goal.
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