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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

February 1, 2014
WONDO MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Earthquakes forward nets two as U.S. tops South Korea

By Scott French
LA Soccer News Contributing Editor

Chris Wondolowski is making a case for being included on the U.S. World Cup roster.
Chris Wondolowski is making a case for being included on the U.S. World Cup roster.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CARSON, Calif. -- Chris Wondolowski's chances of going to Brazil appear enhanced after he netted both goals in the U.S. national team's 2-0 triumph over South Korea in Saturday's World Cup prep at StubHub Center, but it's what's behind those tallies -- rather than the goals themselves -- that's making his argument.

The San Jose Earthquakes striker deftly finished in the fourth and 60th minutes, and the U.S. defense did enough to halt a quick, skillful Korean attack in the Yanks' first test of the year in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000.

Wondolowski nodded home the rebound after Brad Davis got to Graham Zusi's cross to the left post at the start, then rocketed a shot to the upper-right corner after Landon Donovan got a touch on a Zusi pass 15 minutes into the second half.

Zusi made a strong case for himself on the right flank, Donovan orchestrated things from the frontline, Mix Diskerud impressed behind the front pair, and Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were solid in central defense as the Yanks improved to 6-1-4 since 2004 in games that followed the annual January camps in Southern California.

Wondolowski was the difference, doing what he does best. Both strikes were finishers' goals, and Jurgen Klinsmann -- a consummate finisher in his playing days -- has taken notice.

“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 of later you get rewarded for it,” the U.S. coach said. “For 2˝ years now we are working together, and in every training session and every day he came in, he gave everything he has. And that's just really nice to see, that a player like him is just waiting for his chances but also hungry for his chances.

“He's a pure finisher, and he smells where the ball will fall or drop in the box, and he's just right there and puts it in. He follows his first thought and just gets it done, and it's really a reward for his commitment, for his attitude, for his character. It's cool.”

Mike Magee, the MLS MVP, didn't get his first cap -- he stayed back in bed at the hotel after coming down with food poisoning Friday -- but DeAndre Yedlin and Luis Gil made their international debuts, coming off the bench in the second half.

The Koreans, playing their third game in eight days, outshot the U.S., 10-4, and shook off early stumbles to have more of the game, especially in the first half, but Wondolowski put away the two best chances the Yanks created, and that was the real story of the game.

“It's always good to be on the end of those, but I thought it was really good buildup on both goals,” said Wondolowski, who had his third multigoal game with the national team and increased his international total to eight goals in 18 caps. “The first one, Graham played a great ball, and Brad was able to get it on frame, which takes a lot of effort. And then the second one was really nice, and [it was great] to be able to clean it up.”

Said Zusi: “Tonight was Wondo being Wondo, just being in the right place at the right time,” Zusi said. “He's so good at doing that. But you know what, you've got to finish it as well, and he did that, so two great finishes from him. He's a goalscorer. What else can I say?”

The U.S. also had chances in the 12th minute, when Mix Diskerud couldn't get the ball off his foot after collecting a low cross from right back Brad Evans, and just before the break, when Wondolowski sent a ball from the right flank through the goalmouth, just ahead of Donovan.

South Korea thought it had equalized just four minutes after the U.S. went ahead. Debutant central defender Kim Ju-Young got a diving, glancing near-post header from Park Jong-Woo's corner kick; Nick Rimando caught it while stepping backward, and the Koreans protested it had crossed the line. Replays were unclear.

Lee Keun-Ho fired high after a long run past several defenders in the 18th minute, and Kim Shin-Wook was ready for an open shot when Besler slid to cut off Kim Min-Woo's cross from the left wing at the near post.

“I think the guys showed a lot of quality, they showed a lot of effort, and we got rewarded with a win,” Klinsmann said. “South Korea was always dangerous, especially with set pieces -- that was always kind of feeling that something was up in the air, but we handled it well.”
   
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