World Cup 2014 Prep: Parallel Lives

So LA-based fans of the national team suddenly showed upto a game in droves, excited about the World Cup.  The team was drawn into a tough group, but a World Cup hero has taken control and brought a new confidence to the team.  After all, this is a team that has been in every World Cup for over twenty years now, and fans and players alike felt they had a real shot at upsetting some teams and advancing to the second round - maybe further. Then on Saturday in Carson, a whole regiment of flaws were exposed.  The team is farther behind than anyone thought, and it's going to take a lot of work in a hurry in order to avoid embarrassment, let alone advance to the second round.  The defense especially made some colossal errors.  Confidence has now been replaced with serious, and justified concern.

But enough about Korea.

Hey, Hong Myung-Bo with a dismal performance at Victoria Street?  It's 2004, everybody!  *Howard Dean scream*

Okay, now enough about Korea.  All weekend, the sports pages were filled with nothing but Chris Wondolowski.  Everywhere you turned, you couldn't get away from people saying that finally, Chris Wondolowski had arrived for the US.  Hard to believe that a few short years ago, a sold-out friendly in a World Cup year would have been completely ignored by the media.  Now, the whole nation has Wondo-Fever.  I feel bad for the Seattle Seahawks being upstaged this badly.

No, not the Sounders, the Seahawks.  They're a rugby team, kind of.

Here's the thing - although US-Korea was technically played in February, it fits well into the history of January friendlies played at the National Training Center.*  And that history bodes poorly for Wondolowski.  Allow me to demonstrate.

2004 - Landon Donovan scores the only goal in a terrible game against vacationing Denmark in front of a tiny crowd.  At the next World Cup, Donovan starts every game, but is disappointing.  Okay, bear with me.

2005 - I guess there wasn't a friendly in Carson this year.  Can I count the Colombia game in March?  Pat Noonan, Chad Marshall and Clint Mathis were the scorers.  None made it to the 2006 roster.

2006 - Should have started this one.  Vacationing Norway was utterly dismantled by a Taylor Twellman hat trick.  The US won 5-0, with the other goals by Eddie Pope and Chris Klein.  Pope was the only one to make that summer's roster, and he was red-carded against Italy.

2007 - Denmark, or some people wearing Denmark jerseys, were roughed up by Jonathan Bornstein, Landon Donovan, and Kenny Cooper.  Okay, well, Bornstein and Donovan made the 2010 roster.

2008 - Sweden stepped in as the off-duty Scandinavian team.  The goalscorers for the US were Eddie Robinson and Donovan.  Robinson would not make the World Cup roster for South Africa...okay, Landon pretty obviously did.

2009 - Okay, here's one for you.  3-2 against Sweden.  A hat trick from Sacha Kljestan.  I guess he still plays now and again for the US.

2010 - Oh, whoops, the game where Ching and Kljestan scored was in Tampa.  Clarence Goodson scored in a loss in Carson against Honduras.  Damn, I thought this one would have made my case for sure.

Well, you can't really call it a curse, but at the very, very least, there's no correlation between winter success and World Cup presence, let alone glory.

Out of curiosity, let's see what's been going on the past few years before Saturday.

2011 - Teal Bunbury scored in a draw against Chile.  Okay, he's not going to make the roster.

2012 - Ricardo Clark with the only goal against Venezuela in Arizona.  Rico's not going to be on the roster, either.  Hey, this premise might pan out.

2013 - No score in the Hex warmup game against Canada.  I have no memory of this game, probably because it was eclipsed by the nationwide panic after the Honduras loss a few days later.  Oh, and then that article saying Klinsmann had lost the team.  That was only a year ago!  Man, following the USMNT is a roller coaster.

Anyway, on Saturday Wondolowski became the third in this series of games to score multiple goals for the US.  As we've seen, the previous two had their hearts broken bitterly.  On the face of it, Wondo is in an excellent position to join them.  Contrary to what you heard over the weekend, January is not the right time to get hot.  April and May are much to be preferred.

That said, Chris Wondolowski might be the combo-breaker.  Somebody has to play forward for the US - preferably two people.  In the words of Gina Gershon in "Showgirls," if you're the only one standing, they have to hire you.

I'm not saying that Wondolowski is going to shove Jozy Altidore down a stairwell.  I'm simply saying at this rate, he won't need to.  Wondo's other main competitors for the forward position are Herculez Gomez, Terrance Boyd, Eddie Johnson, and Aron Johansson.  Unless you think of Wondo as a winger, or think Donovan and Dempsey will be the two forwards.

Or perhaps you believe, as in keeping with the USMNT's similarity to Judaism, in a Messiah to come.  Which is fine, but no one ever said anything about two Messiahs at once - so Wondolowski still has a good chance to make the roster.

It's certainly no lock, though, and don't let anyone you heard this weekend tell you differently.

*I'm pretty sure that's the official name of the place.  Victoria Street never caught on, Home Depot Center is out of date, and Stubhub Center doesn't feel right yet.  Naming rights have claimed another victim, and this isn't even the worst one we face.  Quick, which one is Toyota Park, and which one is Toyota Stadium?