The Orion

Former Wildcat scores big for US soccer team

Brett Appley

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Courtesy of sports information Chris Wondolowski celebrates with teammates after a victory. Wondolowski has been impressive lately in games with the U.S. national team, gaining national recognition.

Courtesy of sports information
Chris Wondolowski celebrates with teammates after a victory. Wondolowski has been impressive lately in games with the U.S. national team, gaining national recognition.

Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard are three of the best and most recognized names in American soccer. After a strong professional run with both his club and the national team, former Wildcat striker Chris Wondolowski may be on his way to similar stardom.

In a recent stint with the U.S. national team, Wondolowski scored a hat-trick in the first half against Belize in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He followed up the performance by netting two goals against Cuba four days later. Many players on the roster were competing for the chance to play for Team USA in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and by finishing the tournament tied for first in goals scored, there’s good reason to think Americans may be seeing more of him soon.

Wondolowski — or ‘Wondo,’ as he was affectionately called — was dominant during his time at Chico State, scoring 39 goals with 23 assists in 84 games. He was heavily recruited out of high school for track, receiving offers from high-profile schools like UCLA, but chose to concentrate on soccer.

Mike O’Malley, who coached Wondolowski from 2001 to 2004, said the Chico State standout was able to rise to a high level because of his talent, skill set and competiveness.

“Chris was the most competitive player I’ve ever coached,” O’Malley said. “You have to look closely because he’s good at hiding it, but you see how upset he is when he misses a shot. In four years, there were only six or seven times when he wasn’t in first, whether it was running wind sprints or a 2-mile run. He hated to lose.”

After his time at Chico State, Wondolowski was selected in the MLS supplemental draft by the San Jose Earthquakes, and didn’t have a breakout season until 2010. That year, Wondolowski scored 18 goals, which was more than any other MLS player. He scored a whopping 27 goals in 2012, winning a well-deserved MVP award.

O’Malley, who holds ‘Wondo watch parties’ at his house when he can’t attend games, still remembers some of the fantastic goals Wondo scored as a Wildcat.

In Wondolowski’s junior year, Chico State played a team at a small college in Texas, with fans so aggressive they threw items at the team and yelled obscenities. The night before the game, Chico State’s team watched an interview with their goalkeeper, a man who called himself ‘The Buffalo’ because he claimed to be so big and strong no shots could get past him.

“The next day we were in a close game and Wondo curves the ball from the top of the box through the wind and into the upper corner of the net, O’Malley said. “He drops down to one knee, pulls an imaginary arrow from his back and shoots it at the keeper. He killed ‘The Buffalo.’”

That goal helped Chico State move on to the Final Four and build a legacy that lives on. Senior goalkeeper James Stroud, who has pro aspiritions of his own, said Wondolowski has motivated him and his team.

“I’ve met him a few times and he’s a really cool guy and down to earth,” Stroud said, “It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally and he gives me inspiration.”

 

Brett Appley can be reached at [email protected] or @brettappley on Twitter.

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Former Wildcat scores big for US soccer team