2114_isi_wondolowskichris_usmnt020114116 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Match Report

Wondo Scores Two, Leads U.S. to Win Over Korea

It may not have been pretty, but it sure was effective. The United States men's national team defeated Korea 2-0 in front of a capacity crowd at the Stub Hub Center. Here is Jon Arnold's match report.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
February 01, 2014
9:30 PM
CARSON, Calif.—Just when you think it's safe to write off Chris Wondolowski, he jumps up and bites you.

The problem is the same for opposing teams as well as American soccer fans. When the Earthquakes forward was named to the starting lineup ahead of Mike Magee (out with an illness) and Eddie Johnson (nursing an abdominal injury,) U.S. fans across the nation moaned in unison.

But Wondolowski scored both goals in a 2-0 U.S. win against Korea on Saturday, and he may have put himself back into the conversation as a potential fourth forward headed to the World Cup. Klinsmann spoke carefully and reminded reporters at his post-match news conference that Jozy Altidore is still the starter up top. But should something go wrong, the manager noted, it's nice to have options.

"He's a pure finisher and he smells where the ball is in the box and he's just right there and puts it in," Klinsmann said of Saturday night's hero. "He follows his first thought and gets it done, and that's a reward for his commitment, for his attitude, for his character. It's cool."

Wondo was cool on both his goals, the first coming in the third minute when Landon Donovan freed Graham Zusi on the right-hand side. The ponytailed winger lofted in a cross to the back post where Brad Davis did well to get an effort on goal. It was saved by the Korean goalkeeper, but Wondolowski put it back quickly.

Wondo's second goal was similarly poached, with Zusi wisely darting away from his defender on a throw-in. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder kept his nerve and played a low cross into the box, where Landon Donovan got a bit of a touch on it and redirected it to Wondolowski, who applied the finish.

"It's always good to be on the end of those. I thought It was really good build up on both goals," the Wondolowski said after the match. "The first one, Graham played a great ball and Brad was able to get it on frame which took a lot of effort. The second one I thought was really nice just to be able to clean it up."

The 30-year-old had a long drought in a national team shirt before the dam burst Saturday night. He scored in a Gold Cup build-up in San Diego and then had a hat trick against Belize in the Stars and Stripes' opening match in that tournament. He scored against against Cuba but was kept off the board by some of the tournament's heftier opposition, leading to criticism that he can't score against quality international opposition.

A pair against a domestic-based Korea squad won't do anything to stop those complaints, but it is just reward for a player who works hard at every opportunity, according to the coaching staff.

"I think Wondo is a wonderful example of, if you are committed, if you are hungry, if you give everything you have over a long period of time, sooner or later you get rewarded for it," Klinsmann said.

His teammates similarly lauded Wondolowski, and there seemed to be a certain joy that the San Jose Earthquakes striker knocked in both goals.

"Well, he's continually gotten better. He's always scored goals, especially in these last four or five years, but I think his hold up game has gotten a lot better, I think his passing, his vision has gotten a ton better," central midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "He's really become an all-around forward. It's great to see, and he's the kind of guy who works his tail off.

"He's there playing defense, he's tracking back, he's just a real team player. When you see a guy like that score, you're so happy for him and today was huge for us because goals change game. It really was able to change the game."

Aside from the two goals, the match saw little action, though Korea did provide the high pressure and energy Klinsmann said he was hoping for. It was all too apparent, at times, that this was a match pitting two teams lacking their biggest stars, one of which was playing its first match in months and the other which had just traveled in for its third match in a week.

But thanks to Wondolowski, 2014 has started off on a positive note for Klinsmann and the national team. The question for him and the whole team will be how they can sustain the success throughout the year.

What did you think of the match? Share your thoughts below.

Jon Arnold is a longtime ASN contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

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