Chris Wondolowski has been given that “right place, right time” tag.
There could be worse phrases that follow you around if you are a forward. They could be calling you “unlucky” or “selfish” or, worse, “substitute.”
On Saturday, Tucson got a chance to see the San Jose Earthquakes and U.S. national team striker show off the skills that have made him Major League Soccer’s top scorer in two of the last four seasons and put him in the mix for making the World Cup squad later this year.
Wondolowski scored San Jose’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium. In the second match of Saturday’s MLS preseason doubleheader, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC battled to a scoreless draw in front of a crowd of 1,712.
The 31-year-old was in the right place at the right time Saturday when Shea Salinas’ cross was pushed away by goalkeeper Tyler Deric into Wondolowski’s path. The striker rushed forward and got his right foot on the ball just before the defender arrived in the 21st minute.
That type of opportunism helped him net a league-high 18 goals for San Jose in 2010 and then set a single-season MLS record with 27 goals in 2012.
But it’s not all just good fortune. On Saturday, you could see him track back, distribute the ball and help teammates know where they needed to be.
So, does he feel he’s a little misjudged when pundits say he’s a “right time, right place” type of player?
“A little bit,” Wondolowski said. “It is what it is. People will always have opinions. Good or bad, I always enjoy it. The bad ones always fuel me. All I can do is just try to be me out there.”
His “me out there” accounted for both goals in the United States’ 2-0 win over South Korea on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif., that wrapped up a monthlong camp for the Americans.
“It was like icing on the cake,” Wondolowski said of the two-goal performance that raised his national team total to eight in 18 matches. “It was definitely a highlight for me. But you have to continue to get better.”
It’s four months until the World Cup and Wondolowski knows that’s an epoch in soccer terms. That means there’s plenty of time to impress U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“We’ve had talks,” Wondolowski said. “It’s always ever-evolving and trying to continue work on certain things — hold up play and getting stronger. I just have to keep on doing what I’ve been doing.”
And that includes being in the right place at the right time.