Analyzing the Potential World Cup Impact of the Reserve USMNT Forwards

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

United States' Aron Johannsson (9) celebrates his goal with teammate Matt Besler, right, during the second half of an international friendly soccer match against Azerbaijan on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in San Francisco. United States won 2-0. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

In the three games leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the pair of reserve forwards on the United States roster, Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski, have not seen a good amount of playing time.

That can be seen as a good thing, as manager Jurgen Klinsmann has been looking to give Jozy Altidore plenty of time up front with Clint Dempsey before the June 16 clash with Ghana.

It can be also taken as a bad sign for Johannsson and Wondolowski, who are expected to come off the bench and provide a spark in at least one of the three games in Group G.

If you were to guess which of the pair gets more playing time in Brazil, it would be safe to tag Johannsson with that title since he scored against Azerbaijan, while Wondolowski failed to convert on his two chances in a starting role.

Johannsson brings with him a similar style of play to Altidore, although he isn't as physical as the first-choice forward.

The Alabama-born forward also has been in stellar form at the club level for AZ Alkmaar, and when called upon off the pine for the Yanks, he has scored twice in eight appearances.

Bringing Johannsson into the game would hand the Yanks a ton of energy, but the physical nature of play may drop down a bit from the standard that Altidore sets, and that is just fine.

Altidore is in the starting 11 to score goals and break down the back line of his opponents to create more chances late in the game.

That is where Wondolowski fits into the game because he has a reputation of being a poacher in front of the net.

If an opposing defense is fatigued from chasing Altidore around, Wondolowski could easily sneak into a pocket of space in the box to score.

The San Jose Earthquakes forward has also made the most of his opportunity with the national team, albeit against lesser competition, by scoring nine goals over the past 12 months.

The biggest criticism against Wondolowski at the moment is that he has only been able to light the back of the net on fire against Belize, Cuba and Guatemala.

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

While that fact sticks out in the minds of most fans, Johannsson's only two international goals came against a deflated Panama side in World Cup qualifying and Azerbaijan.

With that criticism hovering over their shoulders, both forwards have a point to prove in Brazil if they are given the opportunity, which is the perfect mentality the two should have coming off the bench.

The Yanks will need a hungry player to come off the bench and provide a spark if they are down in a game against Ghana, Portugal or Germany.

Given Klinsmann's recent confidence in Altidore, either player may end up playing alongside the 24-year-old late in a match, which would allow Johannsson or Wondolowski to benefit from the holdup play of Altidore.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

If either is handed an opportunity to play as the lone forward in place of Altidore, he will have to rely on the contributions of other stars such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Graham Zusi to ensure he has a clear chance on goal.

When that opportunity in front of goal comes, he must seize the moment to score a crucial goal, which both players have done at the club level.

Both Johannsson and Wondolowski have a small sample size when it comes to playing with the United States, but based on that time on the pitch, either player should be able to score a goal late in the match that could alter the Group G table.


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