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ASN Weekly Debate

Will Chris Wondolowski Impact the Hexagonal?

Major League Soccer's leading scorer is tearing up the domestic league, but can he make a difference on the international stage? And will he get that chance? ASN's Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon chat.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
November 02, 2012
9:51 AM
Editor's note: ASN Weekly Debate runs every Friday.

Noah Davis: Okay O'Hanlon, Chris Wondolowski is the runaway Major League Soccer MVP. What are the chances he a) makes an impact on the Hexagonal and b) makes the 2014 World Cup roster?

Ryan O'Hanlon:  Based on recent USMNT roster decisions, I'd say slim for a) and very slim for b). But at the same time, based on recent USMNT roster decisions being seemingly random, I wouldn't rule anything out. Especially with Wondo, who's basically made a career of doing stuff he wasn't supposed to ever do.

Davis: I should probably preface this conversation by saying that I think Wondo is one of the nicest people in the world, but I think he could help the U.S. out in certain situations with his hustle and his strange ability to always be in the right place. I think however, and perhaps this is your point, that he might not get a chance to show that ability?

O'Hanlon: Well, he's making the MLS look like an AYSO league, yet it's his strike partner—who probably earned another look with his assist against Antigua—who gets called up to qualifiers, which doesn't seem to bode well for Wondo's future.

Here's a theory: Wondo's hustle and weird skill-less skill needs a full game to show itself. He'll miss chances or be invisible for stretches, but over 90 minutes the hard work/knack for positioning adds up to something pretty great. But if he's coming off the bench for 10-20 minutes, it's tough for his abilities to round into any kind of impact. Good theory?

Davis: Sure, in that he doesn't have game-changing pace or the ability to score from 40 yards or really anything that would indicate that he would score 10, much less 27 goals in a season. Except... he did. One thing he does have going for him: He's a remarkably good finisher, which is a nice quality, especially seeing as the U.S. sometimes seems to think that the goal is in row GG.

Here's why I think he gets a chance: Klinsmann, finally, seems to be grasping the dynamics of the American player pool, which is that you have 15 or so "core guys" who have to be on every roster, and then a handful of "pick 'ems" based on form and, more importantly for Wondo, the competition. It was a revelation when JK came out and said he took Alan Gordon because he wanted to play more directly in Antigua because the field was bad. There are other situations where Wondo can be that flex guy. Maybe.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, it's definitely possible. And, as someone who probably ranked Wondo lower than any of the other panelists (if I listed my top-secret ranking, I'd have to eat your computer), I'd like to see him get a shot, just so we know whether or not he brings something important—or at least so we can think we know. Still, if you can bet on whether or not Wondo gets into the team during qualifying, you shouldn't bet on that because 1) you are a psychopath if you do that and 2) you can make a pretty good argument both ways, I think.

Davis: Okay, better chance to start a game in the World Cup qualifiers: Wondo, Lenhart, or Gordon?

O'Hanlon: Gordon, especially after Klinsmann's comments and after an about-as-good-as-you-can-do-in-10-minutes, not-at-all-Alan-Gordon-like performance against Antigua. Still, I don't think any of them start any games in qualifying, barring an injury crisis. What do you think, you secret Lenhart lover?

Davis: That hair!

I say Wondo. But I might agree with you that Gordon has a better chance to see time as a substitute. You might be on to something that MLS's leading scorer would be better over the course of a game, even though he didn't do much against Panama with the B team back in January.

New theory: Wondo doesn't play much of a role in WCQ but is one of the leaders on the Gold Cup squad.

O'Hanlon: Is that a theory or a prediction or both or maybe neither? Either way, yes, that's something I could see happening but also wouldn't want to see because why not just play a team of young guys—and I'm taking us off course. Sorry.

Whether or not Wondo makes an impact, I think the one thing we've discovered by talking over the Internet is that the spot(s) at the tip of the USMNT formation is close-to-open. That probably says as much—if not more— about the nature of the position—won't totally alter a team's style of play, prone to drops and rises in form—as much as this team's inability to score/lack of perceived talent.

Davis: I agree. But that's another discussion for another day. Like next week.

We leave it to you, audience. Thoughts? Will Wondo make an impact?

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