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The 2014 World Cup

Boyd or Wondo? Who Will Get a Seat on the Plane?

Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man provisional roster needs to get cut down to 23 names by June 2, and the plane to Brazil may not be big enough for both Terrence Boyd and Chris Wondolowski. John Godfrey explores.
BY John Godfrey Posted
May 21, 2014
2:27 PM
IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE a United States World Cup roster that includes both Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd. It just is.

Both are worthy of strong consideration, certainly, but the arithmetic isn't working in their favor as Jurgen Klinsmann prepares to prune his 30-man provisional roster down to 23 names. The bullet points below explain why.

  • Despite a poor 2013-14 season with Sunderland, Jozy Altidore is U.S. soccer's 2013 player of the year and remains Klinsmann's first-choice striker; he makes the team.

  • The technically gifted (and woefully under-utilized) Aron Johannsson is another shoo-in.

  • Add in the midfield-forward hybrids Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, and suddenly there's a limited supply of seats left for strikers.

    Which brings us back to the Rapid Vienna striker and the San Jose Earthquakes forward. Both should get a long look during the upcoming matches against Azerbaijan (10 p.m. Tuesday; ESPN2, UniMas) and Turkey (2 p.m. June 1; ESPN2, UniMas), but we didn't want to wait around for those contests to handicap the competition. Here's a look at the battle that's shaping up between these two players.


    Wondolowski joined the United States national team training camp in Palo Alto, Calif., in solid form, scoring five goals in his first nine games with Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes. He played 90 minutes in each of these contests, and has put 15 of his 30 shots on frame.

    Wondolowski is off to a strong start, but Boyd finished the Austria Bundesliga in absoluting sizzling form. The German-American scored six goals in his final four contests to reach the 20-goal plateau.

    Wondolowski does get bonus points for having scored three goals in his two U.S. national team appearances this year, while Boyd's national team form is a question mark at the moment: He hasn't seen the field so far in 2014.
    Advantage: Boyd


    Coaches have their favorites, and yes, that matters—especially at this time of the quadrennial. Here's what Klinsmann had to say about Wondolowski earlier this month:
    Every time [Wondolowski] comes to the National Team environment, he gives you everything he has. He always goes 1000 percent. He knows he’s getting evaluated by the coaches and what he’s doing day in, day out. He personally doesn’t have to do anything different in how he has done things over the last year that we’ve worked with him, and he came quite a way. He came from a position in which over a longer stretch he hadn’t scored for the National Team, to his first goal then, and into more goals during the Gold Cup and now the last goal he scored against Mexico. He built his own case and he built it stronger and stronger. We’re looking forward to working with Wondo because it’s always a pleasure to have him in camp. He is a competitor. He is determined. You give him a one percent chance and he wants to make it 100 percent at the end of the day.
    A ringing endorsement, don't you think? But before you ask whether the California native prefers a window or an aisle, take a look at what Klinsmann has said about Boyd.

    Terrence is one of our promising talents that we’re trying to develop. He’s one of these guys that should be in London 2012 but unfortunately is not. I think Terrence’s work rate was outstanding and his hunger for finishing off chances is tremendous. It’s something that we really love to see and that’s why we keep working with him and giving him those opportunities. It’s really nice to see what Terrence has achieved within the last couple of months.

    Clearly, the coach is enamored with both strikers. The Boyd quote came before the striker proved himself over the 2013-14 campaign, and Klinsmann no doubt loved to see Boyd tally 20 times for Rapid Vienna.
    Advantage: Even


    Boyd is currently ranked 21st on our interactive list of the top 100 American players. Wondolowski is No. 28. And no, we don't really think this matters at this stage of the game.
    Advantage: Even


    Wondolowski, 30, is a 10-year MLS veteran and the league's 2012 Most Valuable Player. He has nine goals in 19 international appearances.

    Boyd, 23, just completed his second season in the Austrian top flight. Prior to that he played on Hertha Berlin's reserve squad for three seasons and then joined Borussia Dortmund's youth team for a year, performing at a high level for both clubs. Boyd has 13 caps—mostly as a substitute—and has yet to score for the U.S. senior team.
    Advantage: Wondolowski


    Wondolowski rarely wows you with his goals—not even in 2012, when he put 27 away and won MLS's Golden Boot Award. He doesn't specialize in long-range strikes or ankle-breaking moves that generate YouTube traffic. His game is all about positioning, desire, toughness, and tidiness in front of goal. This is a prototype Wondolowski goal, in which he made a back-post run and got on the end of a Michael Bradley header. Wondolowski out-hustles and outmaneuvers defenders, and that is the key to his success.

    Boyd, no slouch in the work ethic department, possesses game-changing talent—the skill, imagination, and audacity that can produce outrageous goals. Like this one. And you can't really teach the aerial ability on display here. Having said, and shown, all of that?
    Advantage: Boyd


    Wondolowski is six-foot tall and weighs 165 pounds. Boyd is a burly six-foot-two and 180 pounds. Does this matter? Possibly. If Altidore (six-foot-one; 175) is the starting striker, who is better suited to fill in for him in the event of yellow card accumulation, injury, or poor form? Boyd is better in the air. Boyd is bigger and stronger. Boyd seems better suited in a single-striker setup.
    Advantage: Boyd


  • Klinsmann constantly preaches the value of urgency, commitment, hustle, and desire—he would have loved coaching Brian McBride or Frankie Hejduk. Also relevant, in 2012 the coach openly criticized Altidore when his No. 1 striker was giving less than his best. Wondolowski and Boyd are both character guys, checking the "hunger" box with everything they say or do.

  • Did Eddie Johnson's off-the-field antics in Seattle and D.C. factor into Klinsmann's decision to leave Johnson off the 30-man roster? Perhaps. They certainly didn't help. Both Wondolowski and Boyd are model citizens, and teammates. No advantage here.

  • Composure-wise, do either of these guys have the inside track? Wondolowski, a poacher, is lethal in the six-yard-box and rarely misses sitters. Boyd, while capable of the truly spectacular, doesn't yet have the same track record as his older teammate. Wondo gets the edge here.

  • If Wondolowski and Boyd are in a dead heat, could the 2018 Olympics be a tie-breaker? Wondo will be 34 when the Russia games roll around, and probably out of the United States national team picture. Boyd will be 27, and in his prime. If youth is a consideration, Boyd clearly benefits.
    Advantage: Even


    In a perfect world, both of these guys make the team. They're completely different players and they could both prove useful—especially if the United States advances out of Group G and goes on a deep run in the tournament. But the Yanks have serious problems on the back line and Klinsmann is likely to err on the side of taking an extra fullback rather than taking both of these forwards.

    Given the degree of difficulty presented by Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, and given the likelihood that the U.S. will need a forward to come on late and make a difference, the nod has to go to Terrence Boyd. His heading ability, his youthful audacity, and his technical skill give him a slight advantage over Wondolowski, who is likely the last man left behind when the team flies south.

    OK, that's my take. What's yours? Should they both make the team? Neither? Wondo instead of Boyd? Give us your thoughts below.

    John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
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