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With two World Cup qualifiers coming up in early September, Jurgen Klinsmann has once again called together the national team for its first camp since the fourth-place finish in this summer’s Copa America.
While Klinsmann has been extremely unpredictable in the past, this camp’s roster actually proved relatively unsurprising, with a number of national team mainstays mixing in with the young crop of American players. However, one man has once again made it into Klinsmann’s squad for matches against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago that has left USMNT fans a bit confused. His name is Chris Wondolowski.
To be clear, this is not an indictment of Wondolowski’s talent. His 118 MLS goals rank fourth all-time, and there’s reason to believe he could have the top spot by the time his career is done. In fact, his nine this season, have once again put him among the league leaders. Additionally, 10 goals in just 34 appearances for the USMNT is one of the best scoring rates in national team history. Not to mention, his leadership and friendly demeanor have made him a fan favorite among the USMNT faithful. However, there seems to be next to no reason to continue including him in the national team.
At 33 years old, it seems extremely unlikely that Wondolowski will earn a spot on the World Cup roster in 2018. Unlike Clint Dempsey, and DeMarcus Beasley before him, Wondolowski was never considered a generational talent. He was a player overlooked throughout his career, became known as one of the most underrated players in the American talent pool, and finally earned a call up to the national team at age 28. He was never the can’t miss prospect like some of his teammates.
That’s the type of player who gets brought to a World Cup at 35, not Wondolowski.
Additionally, Klinsmann is looking at the most talented striker pool the United States has ever had, and opted to bring an aging MLS veteran instead of the numerous younger options he has up top. This misses out on a massive chance to get guys in camp, get them exposed to the veterans on the national team, and create a cohesive unit before the Hex starts and qualifying gets significantly more difficult.
Consider Aron Johannsson, the man once dubbed as the future partner with Jozy Altidore up top, who recently returned from injury with Werder Bremen. Johannsson started against Bayern Munich this past weekend in the Bundesliga, and at 25, still has plenty of time to salvage a career that has stagnated.
Or, there’s the man on the other side of the field for that game, Bayern Munich’s Julian Green. Not only has Green resurrected his national team chances by making the senior team with Bayern, but new manager Carlo Ancelotti has moved him from winger to striker. It would have been intriguing to see the state of his development after some time away from the national team.
Finally, Klinsmann easily could have selected Lynden Gooch, the 20-year-old Sunderland forward, who has found his way under David Moyes. Gooch has started all three games this season for the Black Cats, and while he has yet to open his Premier League scoring account, there’s reason to believe his goals will come very soon.
Any of those three would have been a more intriguing selection than Wondolowski, who has seemingly outlived his usefulness with the national team. While it’s hard to say goodbye to a fan favorite, there’s a bevy of young talent that deserves a chance with the national team, and realistically, cultivating talent that Klinsmann doesn’t plan to take to Russia in 2018 isn’t a recipe for success.