PORTLAND, Ore. – Chris Wondolowski tied the MLS record with 27 goals last season. Since the start of the 2010 season, he's scored 66 goals for the San Jose Earthquakes.
But until this week, he had not scored for the U.S. national team.
Now, with four goals in his last two games, he has ended his nine-game drought and translated his avalanche of MLS goal into international play. After scoring his first goal in the 6-0 rout of Guatemala on Friday, the 30-year-old added a first-half hat trick to spark the United States to a 6-1 victory over Belize in its Gold Cup opener on Tuesday.
“A goalscorer always comes out in the moments where he realizes the extra work pays off,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “I think it pays off for Wondo that he's so dedicated.”
Klinsmann knows a thing or two about goalscorers. He notched 47 for the German national team on the way to winning the World Cup and European Championship.
The former Bayern Munich boss says he never saw Wondolowski frustrated during his dry spell.
“I think Wondo realizes, 'Every minute I'm on the field I have an opportunity, so I better take it,'” Klinsmann said. “And I think he did very well.”
Wondolowski finally broke through in San Diego when he collected inside the penalty area and coolly slotted home in the second half. That goal (and the worry about Herculez Gomez's knee on JELD-WEN Field's turf) helped convince Klinsmann to start the reigning MLS Golden Boot holder in the United States' first Gold Cup match.
Within a dozen minutes, Wondolowski had repaid the German's faith, scrambling home after Joe Corona knocked down a cross. Within the half he'd added two headers.
“All those crosses were amazing – they put them right on my head for the last two,” Wondolowski said. “It's funny – the thing as a striker is sometimes they come and sometimes they don't. Hopefully they keep coming.”
Wondolowski became the third American to score a hat trick in the Gold Cup, after Brian McBride and Landon Donovan. His third goal in particular, barely a minute after Belize scored a consolation to pull within one, undermined the Jaguars' momentum.
“I try to read the game. I try to pick out certain spots. I try to rely on my anticipation,” Wondolowski said. “That's always a key for me.”
“That's what a goalscorer is about – always hungry, never let a chance slip away,” Klinsmann said. “That makes us coaches happy, obviously, and he builds his own case.”
Should the purple patch continue for Wondolowski at the international level (his domestic pace has dropped off; he has five goals from 17 appearances this season), he could make the World Cup roster.
“I'm going to go down swinging and try to get there as best I can,” Wondolowski said.
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