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Wondolowski double leads USMNT past South Korea

Chris Wondolowski

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CARSON, Calif.- A Chris Wondolowski brace was enough for the United States to see off a speedy and technical South Korean side, 2-0, in front of a sold-out crowd at the StubHub Center.

“Coming out of a three and a half weeks of training camp I think the guys showed a lot of quality a lot of effort and they got rewarded with a win,” a satisfied Jurgen Klinsmann said after the game. “Obviously then you are pleased with all that work.”

Wondolowski headed home a rebounded Brad Davis shot for his first goal, then clinched the victory in the second half on a goal set up by Graham Zusi in the 60th minute.

The U.S. looked impressive working the ball through the midfield at times, but plenty of questions will be asked of the defending that was on display to start off the new year.

It was a mixed first half for the U.S. Clinical inter-passing through the middle of the field opened up space on the wings as the South Korean defense collapsed inside, but there were plenty of turnovers in the USMNT’s own half to gift chances to the visitors.

Despite the U.S. looking strong playing through the middle and opening space on the flanks, the defense looked tentative and goalkeeper Nick Rimando was called into action in the eighth minute. A South Korea corner kick was flicked on at the near post only for the veteran shot-stopper to quickly react to keep the ball from crossing the line.

In addition, during the first half, the U.S. defense was chasing shadows, especially on the right hand side. The USMNT looked especially vulnerable in the 18th minute as Keun-Ho Lee won the ball in midfield and outpaced the entire back-line before ballooning his shot over goal.

Min-Woo Kim was also causing trouble every time he looked to venture down South Korea’s left flank.

While USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann preaches a high pressure game in order to win the ball back higher up the field, the U.S. at times were waiting for the Korean’s to complete their passes before stepping to the ball.

Last ditch defending, especially on cross coming from that right hand side is what kept the USMNT in the lead going into the locker room at halftime.

Klinsmann had also preached during his pre-match press conference that Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez needed to work on playing the ball out of the back, but the center backs often looked long for their forwards, rather than try to link up with the midfield.

When the ball was played through the middle, however, the U.S. looked strong connecting short passes before deciding whether to play the ball through channels or spraying it out wide.

“We wanted to take this opportunity in a friendly to be confident and try to play,” Landon Donovan stated in the media mix zone. “We could go to Brazil and sit back for three games for 90 minute and pray that we get results but that’s not how we’re going to progress as a soccer nation so we’re going to go with the confidence to play.

Donovan and Wondolowski were particularly dangerous in tandem as their constant quick burst of movement created little angles for the U.S. team to try and exploit the South Korean back-line, but the defensive frailties outweighed the positives of the U.S. attack.

South Korea opened the second half by continuing to dominate the flanks. The visitors could have equalized in the 57th minute but a free header in the area was fired right into the arms of Rimando.

The Americans punished the Asian side for its wasted chances in front of goal in the 60th minute with Wondolowski’s second goal. A quick throw-in found Zusi just inside the penalty area. A velvet touch to settle the ball and a smart cutback found a streaking Wondolowski, who lifted the ball past South Korean goalkeeper Sung-Ryong Jung to complete his brace.

“That’s just Wondo (Wondolowski) being Wondo,” SBI USMNT Man of the Match Zusi remarked. “Just being in the right place at the right time, but you know what? You got to finish it as well and he did that. Two great finishes from him. He’s a goal scorer, what else can I say?”

As both teams slowed down and substitutions changed the complexion of the game, the Americans settled in. Goodson came in to give some experience to the back-line, while Luis Gil and DeAndre Yedlin each received their first senior cap. Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Johnson, and Eric Alexander also made appearances off the bench in the friendly match.


    • Well and simply stated Mike… poaching should just be in the bare minimum of the definition of a striker.. and when poaching is consistently mentioned with your name what does that say about the rest of your game…
      I like Wondo as an MLS player, his attitude and hustle are great, but scoring against Belize and the SK b team and the warm up Gold Cup games does not a World Cup striker make…
      See Ching, Buddle, Casey, etc….

  1. I like Wondo on the team because his movement will give most defenders problems, not just teams deamed poor. This is something that is not a Strength of our other forwards, save Donovan, so he is a nice change up. Same for Herc.

    When I watch Cameron play solidly at Right Back in the Premier league, it makes me wonder why he isn’t already a lock to start there over guys that don’t normally play there.

    I feel like Zusi has to be in any starting 11 at this point because of his consistancy, work rate and overall quality. Should be fun to see how things develop.

  2. I fail to see why Wondo being a great poacher is somehow a knock against him. What are the odds we’re going to get any clean looks at goal against Germany or Portugal or even Ghana? It’s going to take being in the right place at the right time and a fortunate deflection or two to score against that kind of quality, and that’s exactly what Wondo brings to the table.

    • There is nothing wrong with Wondo.

      The problem is the US is not really a good fit for him.

      He is not a good fit as a lone forward on top of a five man midfield.

      And if you went with a 4-4-2, Clint Dempsey would be the preferred option to partner Jozy.

      The guy who is really keeping Wondo off the team, if that happens, is Dempsey.

    • He is in Bradenton with Toronto and likely getting ready to play in a preseason game today. The MLS season opens in 6 weeks, 3 days after the USA v Ukraine friendly.

  3. All these comments are spot on. The defense is in trouble. Many are on the bubble (including our beloved Deuce and Altidore – yes, I said it when no one else would). The goal keeping unit is a given. So without further ado here is my pathetic assessment:

    Goalkeepers: Howard, Guzan, Rimando

    Defense: For sure: Beasley, Gonzo, Cameron, Evans, Davis, (F. Johnson on the Bubble)
    (If a Back 3: Besler, Gonzo, Cameron)

    Midfield: For sure: Beckerman, Jones, Donovan, MB, Zusi, Bedoya, Mix, (Dempsey on the Bubble).
    Would not be surprised if there are 2 DMF and 3 AMF at the same time.

    Forwards: For sure: Bacon, (Altidore, Boyd, Johnson, Wondo all on the Bubble)

    SO, 7 positions are still open. I would not be surprised if Magee, Shea and Gil were in Brazil.

    • There is no possible way that Altidore, Fabian Johnson, or Dempsey are on any kind of bubble. I know that is a lot of Altidore and Dempsey criticism on these threads, but they are still two of our most prolific goal scoring talents, even if they are not currently scoring. There is no one else out there that I would replace them with.

  4. Missed the game yesterday. From the comments here, it looks like Wondo scoring 2 has neither increased nor decreased his chances at making the roster. I haven’t seen the highlights,’but I’m sure he scored a couple Wondo-like, poached goals. So I think, if you’re Klinsi, you’ve gotta wait and see with him. If he’s on a scoring tear going into May, he has to be a serious option. It won’t be about what he does now necause he’s a hot hand goal scorer. He scores in bunches.

    Can anybody report on Magee’s performance?

    • Magee didn’t play, food poisoning I heard. Really bummed for him, probly his one shot, and he would’ve got some serious play in this one.

    • 1st goal was a Wondo-poached goal.
      2nd was excellent running off of Donovan to RX a layoff from a cross followed by a calm, cool and collected finish.

  5. Starting XI:

    Wondowlowski – Altidowre

    Downavan – Brawdley – Jownes – Dewmpsey

    F. Johnsown – Gonzawlez – Bewsler – Camerown


  6. Congrats Wondo. I noticed something about your game with the USMNT. You get in the penalty area and either strike, poach, or bang in rebounds for for goals and assists. On those days you are not getting goals and assists you still get in the box, but the big difference is not enough passes or runs into the box are being made by teammates. You keep on keeping on Wondoloski.

  7. I think Wondo has a chance because that last striker spot is really just about who can come off the bench and find a goal, not really who is the best all around player.

    • Wondo’s 2nd goal was class. Let’s face it… if world cup comes around and EJ, Altidore are not scoring machines and Wondo is consistently putting them in the net. that does mean a lot. Form & momentum & consistency.

      This means, Altidore, has to start getting on a streak.

      • Altidore is a lock to start in Brazil. Period. There is no way that some gold cup goals against Belize and two goals in a friendly against a B south korea team in any way threatens Altidore’s spot. Wondo doesnt even have a shot at Johansson, who hasn’t even played significant minutes in an international qualifer let alone a world cup. JK keeps Wondo in the mix because the competiton pushes the other players. But when it comes down to it, Jozy, AJ and EJ will be on that plane. Herc, due to being there in 2010 is the most likely bet to go, but Wondo is in the mix along with Boyd.

      • Class? It was a good finish but give me a break. The ball was just sitting there, he was unmarked, then ran up to it and hit it hard. The assist was the classy part.

    • Of course, generally, the 23 best guys, but some of them will be who’s the best for the particular individual matches happening. There are some guys who can’t keep up with Ghana and shouldn’t be on the field, but would probably do OK against Germany or Portugal.

      Everything hangs on that Ghana match. . . everything. Even though Germany and Portugal are on paper miles better, I don’t think they’re actually as big a problem as Ghana. We could conceivably eke out wins/ties against Germany/Portugal, especially given that we have people who’ve played them and Klinsmann knows those teams’ weaknesses well. Again, Ghana is the question mark.

  8. Look, The back line is the place where the US will be forced to use players without WC experience. Anyone who ever thought that would not be a problem has simply not been paying attention. (Dolo will likely not be healthy and while Beasley has WC experience, he is not naturally a back and his size makes him susceptible to being over-powered by bigger attackers, JK should know that as it was 5’10” Bulgarian Letchkov, who beat the 5’5″ Thomas Hassler to a head ball that eliminated his German team in the ’94 WC quarterfinals).

    Unfortunately, the US backline will lack international experience, but Gonzo, Besler, Cameron and Goodson are not neophytes either and it is not impossible that they can sort things out. It is a bit tougher to see what the answer at LB might be, JK seems to think F. Johnson is not a LB and that Beasley is, others (Castillo, Ream, Lichaj, Chandler, Parkhurst, Boca, . . .) are possibilities, but if I were an opponent, that is the spot I would attack.

    • I don’t think Klinsmann is all that against using Fabian as he put him there against Bosnia. I just think Fabian was one of the better midfield options we had. However Bedoya has stepped up and Donovan has returned giving us more to look at.

      • John,

        Fabian has very probably been the most prolific and dangerous USMNT midfielder in terms of assists lately.

        I like Bedoya but he is not as dangerous Fabian.

        LD is great but he seems a bit subdued. I would feel better if he went into this World Cup saying he felt slighted and with a point to prove instead of this “just one of the guys, don’t feel like I have to carry the team” and “ we have the best depth ever” garbage.

        It sounds like he is prepping his excuses for his mediocrity.

        The US will need the exceptional LD not the “one of the guys” LD.

        As for this SK game, the January cup game is always crap.
        It reflects the underwhelming opposition ( a highly experimental SK squad) they usually pick and the fact that the so called USMNT that is fielded almost always is a unit that has never played a real game together before.

        JK’s preferred high tempo, high pressure style works a lot better if the unit on the field has played one or two real games together. This is true whether it is the scrubs or the first team.

        Everyone is over reacting way too much to this game. This game confirmed that Nick Rimando is a fine keeper. That is about it.

    • Dennis,

      There are a lot of very good left backs who are around Hassler’s size.
      There are many players who are Hassler’s size that are excellent in the air.
      Heading the ball is not just about height any more than rebounding a basketball is.
      If Hassler had been 6’0 tall he still might have been beaten by Letchkov.

      Whoever plays left back will have a weakness that will potentially result in them giving up a goal. The trick is to play the guy that knows how to give the best overall performance in spite of his weaknesses.

      As you point out the back four will be the place where the US is probably the least talented.
      And if JK could have dug up better players by now he would have. Whoever winds up playing there will most likely come from the usual suspects.

      The only likely mild surprise is I still think Cameron will start ahead of Gonzo at centerback and next to Besler or Brooks if Brooks gets going.

      Gonzo remains a liability in terms of the quick distribution of the ball out of the back, something Cameron can handle far better. And while Gonzo is aerially dominant, Geoff is no slouch there.

    • I don’t think it’s as much of a question as you seem to think. Our left back is likely to be Fabian. Beasley has tested well enough and has enough experience to be the backup at left back. He may even start against Ghana, but we have too many options at left mid to risk putting our best left back there. At right back, our only real discussion is who will be the backup to Cameron. That is now Cam’s position on the club side and his backup will be based on if they can handle other positions if needed (like Chandler playing the wing or Cameron playing as a CB.). I’m not sure who that backup is, but I don’t think Evans makes the trip, even though he can play in midfield. Lastly, I believe that Gooch will make the trip and may even start over Gonzo a game or two. Like it or not, our most experienced center back is playing again and is still the biggest defender we have and is just as good in the air as either Gonzo or Goodson. He is slow and sometimes makes bone headed moves, but he has been there before, and can still take out large forwards or aerial threats. He could even bring a goal or two. If he can bring his best form, no matter what that means these days, I would rather have him in the middle with a fast guy (Besler) who can pass than anyone else.

    • I think youre sorely mistaken on that point, he may not start (i hope he doesnt) but I would be a bit surprised if he doesn’t make the trip at this point

    • Agreed.. my money is on Cam as the starter, and if Parkhurst plays well at RB the first few months of the MLS season, he gets in the conversation as the backup..
      Dolo’s latest setback may be too much to overcome
      The key will be if Dolo or Chandler makes the March friendly

      Evans has steadily gotten worse, and his last four games he’s been the weakest link on the field

  9. I think the scoreline Mexico had against South Korea has alot of people judging this match alittle too harshly. First lets remember Mexico is in the middle of there LigaMX season and players have match fitness and sharpness. Second South Korea wasn’t that bad in that match and were effective at putting pressure on Mexico and were unlucky not to score a couple times off set pieces early. Last year coming out of this camp the US was held to a 0-0 tie against a Canada side not as good as this Korean team. I think there were some individual preformances to look at but we shouldn’t read that much from it as a team.

  10. The defense looks in shape to surrender 8-9 group round goals… i do not think there are better options than Besler and Gonzo at CB, but I don’t think they can hold up against the three teams in the group-unless, USMNT plays bunker-bob style counterattacking style. We have seen it with Klinsmann before-the defensive midfield triangle of death.

    • All I will say is Besler started last season rather slowly as well. I think it takes him a few matches to get up to his match speed and sharpness.

    • Klinsy will start with these two but I have a feeling there may be a CGIV sub in one of the games, though probably for Gonzo, not Besler.

  11. I thought some of the major issues defensively will be fixed due to changes in personnel. Were Besler and Gonzalez, who will likely start, very good? No. But there were also terrible turnovers from midfield, which led to a lot of Korean breaks. Most of the guys out there today will not be starting (particularly Davis and Mix, who were mediocre at best). Evans was wretched and got burnt multiple times; if Klinsmann is the coach we hope he is, I can’t see him getting much time in Brazil, especially after his last few performances. There are literally four guys in the pool I would pick over him at RB: Cameron, Chandler, Lichaj, and Parkhurst. I am certainly worried, but I don’t think our fate is sealed.

    • That’s true. Those were some nasty turnovers. And the terrible play of the outside backs made their job even harder than it needed to be.

    • Well said, I wrote basically the same opinion on the other thread..
      With fullbacks who belong and have a better soccer IQ, and a more established midfield, I think you will see Omar and Besler gel better

    • I think he certainly buys himself anouther chance. The second was pretty well taken honestly. Also I think he gives you something alittle different from the other strikers in the US pool.

    • I just don’t see what Wondo Brings What Other Players Dont Already have. The WC team Striking Core
      1 Jozy
      2 Bacon
      3 Demps

      Then you can move Donovan to striker if need be.
      We have versatile players that I think are more than capable of filling needs up top in the event of an injury.
      Much rather use the 4th Striker roster spot on a other position.

      • You also have EJ. Not sure why JK uses him on the wing, but he’s another striker. A more versatile player than Wondo

      • EJ Versatile? He sucks at playing on the wing. He has poor hold up play and passing. What he has is breakaways and headers. I’d take Wondo ahead of him if it was down to those two.

      • If you look back over the last year and some in the Gold Cup, he was used there when we didn’t have close to our full complement of players.
        Don’t worry, when it’s crunch time, he won’t see time on our left wing.. or probably anywhere else..
        He can do one thing… jump really really high…. JK knows that

      • Yeah, but boy can he jump high. He has become pretty deadly in the air. Not sure if that will make a difference with our group opponents as I know that Germany and Ghana are big and physical. Don’t know about Portuguese defenders off hand.

      • Yep, he’s been deadly in the air, but point being that he’s only been deployed on the left when we’ve had less than a full squad. I know he didn’t start yesterday because of an injury and they didn’t think he could go 90. I think his speed and ability to score in the air makes him the 3rd forward after Jozy and Aron, ahead of Boyd or Wondo.. but I don’t think he sees the wing in Brazil

      • umm… putting the ball into the net? He is completly different than any of your 1,2,3 at that alone is a reason. If we are pinging the ball around the box in a last second hope of getting a goal, no better player than Wondo to have lurking.

      • Demps and Donovan have been clutch for us in Big Games. If we’re down a goal they stay in game; and knowing he’ll go with guys who he knows have come through in clutch situations. Like EJ

      • I think Wondo is better than anyone on the squad at being in the right place at the right time. Yes, there are questions as to whether Wondo can get those opportunities against non-Concaaf opposition, but today’s game is some indication that he can do it. Also, the guy works pretty hard and has improved steadily over the years. You can always use a veteran player with these attributes on your squad.

        I think he and Johnson are competing for the same spot. You can’t directly compare them because each brings different qualities to the team. Johnson is a much better in the air and on the break, but he pouts.

        This is a decision JK will likely make later in the spring and may come down to the form of both Wondo and EJ, as well as what is happening with the form of the strikers ahead of them in the pecking order.

      • johnson has waaaay more experience…in Europe, in Qualifiers and at the world cup. His winning goal against our bigggest rival in a world cup qualifier came out of nowhere and shifted the match. The US will need that kind of x factor in the group stage. Wondos goals were goals, but they were somewhat lucky. Bad rebound and poor marking. Germany, Portgual and Ghana will not allow for those types of opportunities.

        as for locker room issues, i’ve not heard of EJ causing locker room drama ever since he’s been in the UsMNT set up, and thats been since 2004…i could have missed something though.

      • Agreed. I like Wondo, but all he really brings are his poacher’s instincts. Dempsey is just as much of a poacher, but he also has some creativity, a long shot, and “moments of brilliance” where he looks World Class. And he’s a midfielder at heart. The other strikers we have just have better physics, holdup and passing skills and/or technical prowess. If Wondo was 10 years younger I would be excited that he could pickup more skills, but at this point he has perfected the art of poaching, which is good enough in MLS and against some lesser international opponents, but I don’t think will work against Germany and Portugal. It is fun to watch him drive some of these other opponents crazy though.

    • He didn’t do anything different than usual. So why would it silence the doubters? He showed he can poach goals against weaker teams. Standard Wondo. Really good at it, great finisher. But he’ll miss out on Brazil. Especially if Agudelo continues to go 90 and play well in Holland.

  12. Three of these defenders are starters against Ghana Portugal and Germany. Korea made them look poor to average. It’s going to be a brutal group performance unless there is considerable improvement.

    • Any one of the WC opponents would have scored a goal or two off our bad giveaways. If the CB’s play this poorly in Brazil, we won’t get out of the group for sure. Also, as the article mentions, too many long clearances or what I like to call hit and hope instead of building from the back. I’m sure Klinsmann must be frustrated about that since he has been preaching about it for the last couple of years.

  13. My observations:

    1. Jozy was nearly invisible (trying to start 300 comment thread).
    2. Those of you clamoring for the youngsters to start, rewatch the last 10 minutes.
    3. The only way we’re going learn the middle names of all USMNT players it by watching the Spanish language broadcast (I’m thinking of you Kyle Robert Beckerman)

    • Not sure if the speed of play got to him or what happened, but yeah. I can’t see there being any chance of him making it to Brazil or seeing real minutes anytime soon.

      He might have the athletic tools, but the positioning and soccer iq was nonexistent. Have to think Sigi Schmid allowing him to just run around wherever an entire season did not exactly build good habits. Makes me think of when he was embarrassed by the Rapids rookies in the playoffs.

      Should probably spend less time trying to be Dani Alves and more time being Steve Dolo

    • Two bad turnovers, used his athleticism to pressure back, and South Korea exploited the gaps. Then gave up a free kick and looked pretty shaky, although he did break up some plays. Gil, on the other hand, looked comfortable.

    • People who thought he was going to be part of this one were always living in a dream land. He is a really bright talent who hopefully will be ready to be a big part of the next cycle. It was his first cap today, I tend to give him a pass on the less than great performance. Plus it takes a bit to get into the flow of a game, he only had 15-20 minutes

      • I didn’t see any sort of domination. Regardless, toothless possession is not of much value. In addition, this was a weak s.korea side who had just been trounced by mexico 4-0 two days prior.

      • It was a pretty weak US side as well missing


      • uhhh right

        a weak US team that contained our starting CBs, Landon, Mix, Evans, Beckerman and a bunch of guys Klinsmann has integrated into his system over the past 18 months?

        The fawning over “depth” after the Gold Cup this past summer and this is the best we can do?

      • A shutout 2 to 0 win over an equal depth world cup team with Chris wondolowski brad Davis as attacking players? Id say they handled it.

      • The only difference was Mexico knocked in a couple more in the last minutes. I actually thought South Korea had more chances against Mexico.

      • After watching the Mexico match I thought this was one where Wondo could have a good match. South Korea’s marking and clearing in the box is what gave up goals to Mexico as well.

      • Sorry… I keep seeing these posts regarding the style of possession and can’t help but be perplexed. I sometimes agree that our possession is frustratingly conservative BUT… these things are situational. Considering they had a lead the entire match/ a few minutes into the game…. possession period, is certainly is a positive.

        When you are down a goal, chasing a game, possession with a purpose is to attack, take more chances out of necessity. When you are up a goal, the purpose changes. There is no better defense than smart, safe possession- particularly against a team like Korea who specializes/is VERY good at exploiting turnovers/the counter attack.. Can’t score if you don’t have the ball. You maintain patient possession in this case and the team down HAS to take chances at which point you have to take advantage. Unfortunately, other than LD, the line up the US had in didn’t have the speed up top to do this.

      • Seriously? This was a weak performance. Even the highlights show the US was less dangerous than Korea. Korea just couldn’t finish.

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