October 8, 2012
By Michael Lewis
SOME STRIKING ABSENCES
Altidore, Wondolowski left off U.S. WCQ team for different reasons
|Chris Wondolowski won't be playing for the U.S. any time soon.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
They're two premier strikers who have been in great form for their respective club teams.
And even though U.S. national coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants players to be in form for their club sides, they were among the players he did not select for the World Cup qualifying roster.
Former Red Bull Jozy Altidore has gotten off to a quick start for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch First Division, while San Jose Quake Chris Wondolowski is finishing off what could be a record Major League Soccer season.
The Americans will need everything they can muster as they face two vital matches on the road to Brazil over the next eight days. Tied with Guatemala for the CONCACAF Group A lead, the U.S. (2-1-1, seven points) probably will need four points in those encounters. The U.S. plays at Antigua & Barbuda on Friday before hosting the Guatemalans in Kansas City, Kansas next Tuesday.
But the Americans will go into battle without those two strikers.
Altidore, who scored eight goals this season before he was red-carded in an AZ Alkmaar loss this weekend, did not measure up in recent matches or training camp, Klinsmann said during a conference call on Monday afternoon.
“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," Klinsmann said. "Jozy can do much, much better. The reason he is not coming in is mainly about performances in Jamaica and at home, and also in training. Also some certain things that went on in the May-June camp.”
Klinsmann would not elaborate, but indicated Altidore would not remain on the sidelines for long.
“The door is always open and we hope to see a positive reaction from his end and put more effort and more commitment into this whole approach," he said. "And then it will be the next call-up coming up.”
On the flip side, striker Herculez Gomez has been struggling for playing time with his Santos Laguna team in the Mexican First Division. Yet, he was selected by Klinsmann.
Klinsmann said club performance was "absolutely" important, which is a reason why the coach called Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson and San Jose forward Alan Gordon into camp.
But . . .
"It looks a little bit different in Jozy’s case because he’s doing well and scoring goals [with Alkmaar] but he isn’t doing well with us the last couple of games," Klinsmann said. "I have much trust in these upcoming two games in Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon coming in. It’s important [players] have their club rhythm. It’s important they play well there. It’s important they have their starting spot. But it doesn’t mean coming back into the national team things are for granted. That’s as simple as it is.”
Wondolowski's exclusion from the roster was just as puzzling, considering he is on his way to an MVP season with the Quakes. He has scored 25 goals, only two from the league record of 27 set by former Tampa Bay Mutiny striker Roy Lassiter. Terrence Boyd was picked above Wondo.
“That is more tactical related," Klinsmann said. "I spoke to both Wondo and Terrence. We wanted to bring in Eddie and Alan because both are really strong in the air. We expect the opponent will probably play more defensively and get a lot of numbers in the box, so we need to force things with crosses and get really strong in the air.
"Wondo is on a roll. It’s fantastic to watch him. Both are on stand-by, so if anything happens in camp, they are both ready to come in right away.”
Klinsmann praised Wondolowski, but reminded the media there is a difference between club and international soccer.
“Watching him score all of those goals and be at the right spot at the right time is great to see," he said. "Wondo is always with us in a certain way because we have an extended roster we deal with the whole time and he will get more chances to prove his qualities. We really know him quite well and when I talked to him, he sees the international level is just a different air than where he plays with his club team. It’s just normal. It’s just more difficult to prove yourself in an international environment than your club environment.
"He always responds the same way on the phone, saying: ‘Coach, I keep pushing, no matter what.’ Which is positive for a coach. It’s a great response.”
Two players that were not on Klinsmann's radar earlier this year were Johnson and Gordon, who are enjoying career years themselves.
Johnson is completing a revival season with Seattle, having recorded 14 goals and two assists, while the 30-year-old Gordon, a journeyman, has tallied 13 goals and seven assists with San Jose.