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Wondolowski, Johannsson ready to fill in for injured Altidore

Chris Wondolowski

Photo by John Todd/


SAO PAULO — It is widely known by now that Jozy Altidore will miss Sunday’s encounter with Portugal, but just who will replace him is a question that remains unanswered.

Altidore will not be in uniform for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s Group G meeting with Portugal because of a hamstring strain picked up in the 2-1 win vs. Ghana this past Monday. His absence from the starting lineup makes it likely that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann turns to one of Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski for the tilt at Arena Amazonia, but each of the two back-up forwards possesses different qualities that will make for a tough decision.

Klinsmann could opt to go with the 23-year-old Johannsson, as the manager did in the 23rd minute of that Ghana match when he subbed out the injured Altidore. Johannsson is technical player who likes to be on the ball and can run at defenders, but he is not very physical and his hold-up game is lacking.

Wondolowski provides that link-up play as well as a nose for goal and work rate that have drawn rave reviews from Klinsmann in the past, but the veteran forward is not the fastest or most technically-gifted player. There is also a concern from some sections of fans and media about his ability to produce against top-level teams, as the majority of Wondolowski’s nine international goals in 21 caps have come against weaker opposition.

Either way, do not expect either Wondolowski or Johannsson to perfectly fill in the cleats left by physically-gifted and World Cup-experienced Altidore.

“Both of us have different styles than Jozy,” said Johannsson, who has two goals for the U.S. in nine appearances. “If either one of us gets out on the field then we just try to play our game and try to do what the coach wants us to do. If that’s to play like Jozy, then we’ll try to do that and if he wants us to play like we normally play then we’ll try to do that.”

Added the 31-year-old Wondolowski: “Jozy is a special player. It’s like saying, ‘Hey go and be Cristiano Ronaldo.’ You can’t necessarily replace certain aspects of it but I think that both Aron and I bring different styles, different sets of skills that I think are useful and I think that’s what we have to do is incorporate those skills sets and also be able to fit into the gameplan as well.

“Just like Aron said, we’re going to have to do certain things that Jozy did do, and we’re also going to have to be able to incorporate our style as well, so it’s just kind of managing those two things.”

There is the chance that Klinsmann deploys another midfielder in place of Altidore and leaves captain Clint Dempsey up top by his lonesome, but that seems unlikely given that it would require a systematic change from a head coach that has almost always used a target striker in his formations.

For Wondolowski and Johannsson, a start would mean needing to change their mental approaches to the game. The two have been primarily bench options since the start of the U.S.’s camp last month, and the only match either of them – Wondolowski – started in was the 2-0 win over Azerbaijan in the Americans’ first send-off series friendly on May 27.

“Starting, you’re able to kind of feel yourself into the game a little bit and from minute one, everyone’s going from kind of the same mindset,” said Wondolowski of the differences between being used as a starter and reserve. “Coming off the bench, it’s a little bit different. You’re kind of being able to read the game a bit. Sometimes they have a little bit of tired legs, (you have) fresh legs and your game plan then is to change the game.

“You want to bring a spark and bring a little something different that might not have been out there since the start. That’s kind of just the mind frame right there.”

Whoever gets the nod out of the two players will be facing a weakened Portugal back line. Temperamental centerback Pepe is suspended after receiving a red card in Portugal’s surprising 4-0 loss to Germany and left back Fabio Coentrao is out for the remainder of the World Cup with a thigh injury.

The U.S. forwards could be salivating at the thought of facing a Portugal defense that is less than a full-strength, but they are not looking at it in that manner given that all the Portuguese players will be desperate for points so as to try and avoid an early exit.

Instead, Wondolowski and Johannsson are hoping to make their marks in Altidore’s absence.

“I think that we’ve had the same gameplan whether the defenders were in there as well,” said Wondolowski. “I know that those are two big guys that they’ve lost, but I think that our gameplan is still going to be the exact same and we’re just going to out there and try to execute it.”


  1. I think Dempsey moves up and brad Davis starts. He’s smart and used to the nasty weather that is similar to Houston’s.

  2. Everyone,

    Thanks for all the very interesting comments. This is what I love about SBI. So many different angles to consider and lots of intelligent analyses here. Wondo or Aron, or is it Bedoya, or maybe just Deuce alone? Just when I think I’ve made up my mind, I read another one of your insightful comments and I’m swayed a new direction.

    One thing really stands out: it’s impossible to predict with any certainty. It’s great that we have so many good options—unless you’re Portugal’s defense and you’re trying to plan ahead.

    • Oh yea? Try this one on for size….
      Why did JK bring Bradley, Wondo, and AJ to meet the press today…(He usually only brings starters)
      Is it:
      A. To confuse Portugal between AJ or Wondo?
      B. Because they’re both gonna start?
      C. He loves messing with the press and gets a kick out of playing mind games with em…
      D. He wants to further confuse The Googly King…

      • It’s C because we probably care more then Portugal does. Not putting either of our strikers down but I just don’t see them drastically changing there game plan based on either.

      • E) Klinsmann wants to further enrage SBI fans by strutting his anti-Donovans out in front of the press, all as an attempt to “make this all about him”


    • I do believe you have a case of the fever right now KGE. Overwhemling, isn’t it? Moe Cowbell won’t solve this one (although it helps). You have an appointment on Sunday afternoon. We’ll get that taken care of.

      • Moe, we’ve been friends for a long time now and you’ve really been there for me, but Ali is right on this one. I got a fevah and the only prescription is more Jermaine Jones.

    • KGE, you made some very nice comments about this very surprising and exciting WC (with the US adding to the excitement by winning its VERY FIRST BIG & DIFFICULT GROUP GAME)!!!. Against Portugal, I believe we should stick with the same players but with more pressure applied by Wondo with his tremendous work rate and finishing skills to be followed-up with AJ. Defensively, we should replace Beasley with Chandler who would do a better job against the dangerous Portugal forwards. Finally, we need Bradley and the rest of the US team to make fewer passing mistakes to result with another BIG USA UPSET in this WC!!!

    • Portugal was prepared to play against Altidore. They may have seen Wondo and Bacon play recently, but I seriously doubt that they have a defensive scheme specifically designed for what Klinsi is going to throw at them. They are in shambles. We need to attack them hard from the start.

  3. I wouldn’t say AJ played bad, I would say the service he got was bad. Bedoya was terrible on set pieces and Bradley couldn’t complete 3 yard passes that day. Also once Dempsey got hit he was not his old self. He had the creativity knocked out of him.

  4. Start Wondo and let him run himself out all the while tucking into dangerous positions, possibly nabbing one. Bring on AJ in the 65-70th n let him run straight at a (hopefully) tired back line.

  5. JK will change the formation to fit the players available to him. Shin Guardian guy suggested 4-4-2.

    We’ll need significant possession and therefore creative offensive threats to keep Portugal on its back foot. My guess? Mix. Formation TBD by JK.

    I Believe.

  6. Geeking out on playing coach…

    Why not get Cameron, Besler, and Brooks on the field at the same time at some time during the game? 3-5-2 thing on offense, 5-3-2 on D. Sacrifice Jones or Beckerman and use 1 d-mid. One of F. Johnson, Beasley, and even occasionally Cameron make forays into attack while the others cover. Cameron can support Johnson on the right against Ronaldo, since Cameron plays RB for Stoke.

    That leaves you 4 players in attack, obviously Bradley and Dempsey, then you can pick the other two out of a hat of Johannson, Bedoya, Wondo, Zusi, Diskerud, even Green should be considered, and the coach can commit at least one perhaps two subs to tinkering to get the best fit based on play (or playing the hot sub lottery) after 60-70 min. I personally favor Zusi and Johannson, but all of those options are viable (and a tribute to Klinsmann’s efforts to deepen the talent pool).

    Anyways, fun stuff. “Go go USA! Certainly through!”

    • Your idea is not unrealistic, but I don’t think they start with 5 in the back.
      I’m surprised nobody picked up on this, but on one of Howard’s brief interviews last week, he was responding to a question about the backline gelling, and he said something like:
      “Yea they’ll be fine, we’ve been switching out people to be ready, whether it’s the back 4 or 5 we’ll be ready”

      Plus we did see it the last 10 minutes of a send off game (which didn’t work)…
      But it’s in the arsenal….

  7. Just watched the highlights again, Muller with some very Wondo like goals. One a really poor clearance drops to him, another the keeper pads it straight forward to him.

    • Yeah I would sacrifice one of them. I wrote a geeky post just a second ago with fun formation speculation, but even if that’s too radical, I think you sit one of them and sub with the other in the second half. The way to make sacrificing one of them work is to do much better in midfield possession.

      I actually think that’s possible, the US is better than what they showed against Ghana.

    • We know you like Green. Personally I wouldn’t hate the move if Klinsmann was ready to live and die by it. He thought he was good enough to be in the 23 then he should be ready to put him out there.

  8. Wando to start. Wear the defense down with his peskiness and work rate. And The Iceman to come in to finish dem off! Portugal is nothing to fear. They are broken and imploding. It took a hat trick from Ronaldo on the very last day of qualifying for them to barely to squeeze into the the World Cup.We should run them off the track. That heat and humidity will wear Portugal out by the 75 min. They are not use to the heat and humidity the way we are in CONCACAF and MLS.. Our fitness is the key and will be very apparent! The pressure is on Portugal, not us. We can play it safe in this game and grind out a result if need be. Remember, we don’t need to win this game. A tie is basically just as good assuming that Germany takes care of business against Ghana. With that said, I think USA wins 3-1.Shades of 2002. We will thus become Portugal’s Ghana…

    • It is true that a draw would hurt Portugal more than us. OTOH, I still am not comfortable enough with 4 pts. and a 5 goal lead in GD heading into the Germany match, especially if Ghana manages a win or draw today. We have seen Italy blow a lead in GD like that in the Confederations Cup in 2009 to our benefit. We could easily lose 3-0 and Portugal could win 2-0 and I think we would be out. Let’s win this game while we control our destiny.

  9. Another vote for Wondo. You can’t guarantee that he will score, but I think you can guarantee that he will work as hard if not harder than anyone else on the field.

  10. We should take a page from CR’s game plan and force Portugal to spend precious energy just like CR did with Italy.

    • ???? for some reason my post was not cleared after submitting it.

      I think Bedoya can play Dempsey’s role but that would leave a defensive issue at RM, Zusi is good going forward but defending is not his strength.

      • Zusi may not be as good as Bedoya as a defender but he is still a fine defender.

        Or if that is not enough for you, you can bring Chandler in at right back and put Fabian at RM in Zusi’s spot.

      • Zusi is a solid defender with an insane work rate and fitness level. If Bedoya has an advantage, it’s going forward. Though I’d say Zusi’s dead ball accuracy almost makes up for that.

  11. not sure i agree Wondo provides the link up play. for SJ Gordon and Lenhart provide that to Wondo, not the other way around. either way, there is no simple answer. JK is just gonna have to make a decision and hope it works. i’d lean towards putting Dempsey up top in transition and going with Zusi and Bedoya instead of just one of them. whether they line up as a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 in defense, it still would work. unfortunately, without Jozy (or Boyd or EJ or Agudelo), we just have to deal with what we got.

    either way, the midfield is going to have to transition much better than they did against Ghana. we can talk about how ineffective AJ was, but it’s not like he got great service. tough situation for sure.

    • One other option to consider is that Bedoya played his best club ball as a centrally located attacking midfielder. That is more his natural position than winger.

      He is also reasonably fast and is a fine defender, two qualities Jozy has as well.

      Putting Dempsey up top and Ale just beneath him (or vice versa), with Zusi coming in on the right wing would hardly be a shock.

      • We should take a page from CR’s game plan and force Portugal to spend precious energy just like CR did with Italy.

      • Very good point actually. I was actually really impressed with the runs Bedoya makes finding space quickly in transition. If he was a better finisher he would of had 12 or more goals this year. If we want to attack quickly he’s a great option.

      • He put some shots on frame from distance. If one of those get spilled, it’s a Wondo or Dempsey specialty. Garbage goals count the same as golazzos.

  12. As stated in the article, neither AJ or Wondo have the same skill-set as Jozy. To me, that means you have to change the tactical approach to the game. I’d like to see this:




    We need to maintain more possession this game than against Ghana. So if you don’t have a target forward to hold the ball up and relieve pressure, you’re going to need to relieve that pressure through midfield possession. The outlet passes in this set-up would be lateral rather than to the forward.

  13. I think Wondo provides the best option, though I only yesterday thought that Deuce alone up top would be the best… I think either works, but I’m leaning Wondon now.

    I disagree with the article that Wondo provides better link-up play, precisely because he lacks the technique to do it effectively, at this level or in MLS. But I think he can do it periodically at least, and, more importantly, his movement opens up space for Clint to receive the ball.

    Wondo will also tire their back line and may occupy Meireles and/or Moutniho periodically. If they decide not to move with him… so much the better for us.

    • You’re last point is why I think Wondo makes for a good second half sub. If you’re protecting a lead, Wondo pressures and harasses the back line. If you need a goal, Wondo always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and according to John Terry, is extremely hard to track in his off-the-ball movement.

      • Fair enough, and that could certainly work. But I think Wondo is better for running 60 + minutes in Manaus than Aron, given Wondo playing in MLS temperatures, having a background in distance running, and not having played 70 minutes like Aron had previously. On top of that, Aron could do exactly as you describe Wondo acting in the final 20. I think starting Wondo gets the best out of both him and Aron.

      • Side note: I really like that we lose our “main guy” and can still make a good case for either of our backups being a solid contributor.

      • +1. After looking at every analysis I can find, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will defer to JK. It’s an unfamiliar opponent (we haven’t played them since 2002)… even at the club/individual level, there is very little overlap.

        Ultimately, they have their challenges, we have ours. Analysis can’t take us much further… Gametime can’t come soon enough.

        [Wait for it…..]

        LET”S GO YANKS!!!!

      • 7 degrees of Aaron Bacon:
        Aaron plays for AZ Alkmaar,
        Alkmaar plays in Eredivise with FC Twente
        FC Twente had Onyewu on loan
        Onyewu played for Sporting Lisbon
        Sporting had Paulo Bento as a player
        Paulo Bento was on the 2002 Portugal team

      • Let me try again:
        Aaron Bacon is on this USA world cup squad
        Omar Gonzalez is on this world cup squad
        Omar is a defender for LA Galaxy
        Abel Xavier was a defender for LA Galaxy
        Abel Xavier was on the 2002 World Cup team

  14. I just don’t see Aron handling the conditions of Manaus all that well. I think you have to go with Wondo if only to put pressure on the back line for 70s minutes. Then you can bring in Johannsson to hopefully find a goal. Wondo’s only scored as a starter and Aron’s only scored as a sub for the US.

      • I was one of them. He had one bad game.

        I’m fine with Johannsson replacing Altidore. We need to have less of a defensive line up (beckerman) to have more possession to create more chances.

      • One bad game in a World Cup can be fatal.

        The US will be fine however they decide to replace Jozy.

        It’s just amusing how it takes Jozy getting hurt for people to see how valuable he is to the US.

        Of course if AJ or Wondo score the winning goal it will be a bitter pill for a lot of USMNT “fans”.

      • His value is somewhat contexual. He is more valuable when a coach builds a team with that kind of forward and only brings one forward in that mold.

        If Klinsy brought a second player of that style–even of lesser quality–we wouldn’t be having some of the arguments on SBI that we’re reading.

      • It seems then that JK’s plan to replace Altidore was always going to be about changing the style of play.. It’s clear that Jozy was looking like he was going to be the US’ version of Costa Rica’s Campbell.

        So the question is would EJ or Boyd have been an acceptable sub for an injured Jozy or would they have shifted to whatever they are going to do now anyway?

        JK has frequently spoken of the need to flexible in the World Cup.

        Boyd was hot in Austria but he rarely if ever impressed in a senior US shirt and EJ , well, his move to DC seems to have messed up his form enough to where he became a question mark.

        In other words it looks like JK in the end did not think Boyd and EJ were suitable replacements for Jozy.

        AJ and Wondo have been dissed because they are scoring well in lower rated leagues but how about those Costa Rica guys or Oribe Peralta or for that matter Tim Cahill?

        And are those not the same critics who said Beckerman could not play at this level?

        Playing Portugal is a one shot deal; it won’t be easy but of course we can beat them.

        We are about to find out just what the replacement plan for Jozy is.

      • It’s an interesting question. In Boyd’s defense, he played less than 300 minutes and got two assists. And I believe only started one game while averaging less than 10 minutes per appearance off the bench. Either way, your overall point about whether JK just planned to use a different system in the event of Jozy going down is well taken.

      • I’m a Boyd fan but I saw every one of his “10-15 minutes at the end of the game appearances” and he either did not do anything or did bad things.

        On the one hand, sometimes you don’t get a chance to do anything with so little time but on the other if you do get a chance you need to impress not screw up.

        JK obviously likes him a lot and I believe Boyd will get his chance going forward. JK points out that he himself did not get capped until he was 24 and that some players take longer than others.

        I’m okay with Boyd not being in Brazil because I don’t think he is ready yet and I think the alternative plan will work out just fine.

      • Not sure I buy the “lower rated leagues stuff anymore.

        England, Spain OUT, Italy on the edge. US, Coasta, Mexico all doing well. I think its more a factor of the olayer, not where they play

        And YES, Klinsmann screwed up on Donovan… Green, Davis? Never gonna see the field…Donovan… would be starting now

      • AJ was never an JA replacement role wise. AJ is a front to goal second striker and JA is a back to goal CF. The missing piece is Boyd but that is another topic. For AJ to succeed he needs to be paired up with someone, you leave him in an island as a CF and he is going to go to waste.

      • So, no: JA is not a back-to-the-goal CF, but he’s the best thing we have along those lines. He and AJ are much closer analogues than you are putting out, here. Of course I would grant that AJ is a fundamentally more sound player… but then I’d say that JA is a beast and makes up for it with intense athleticism.

      • I wasn’t one of them and I wasn’t too surprised by his performance the other night. He actually played a little better then he had been the last couple months at AZ.

      • Sure but never really playing well in a senior US shirt also makes an impression.

        There is no doubt that Boyd did well for his club and there is no doubt that JK likes Boyd as he kept calling him in. So logically, he must not have impressed in the camp.

      • I think a lot of people here are over simplifying this. Just because Boyd (and EJ) have somewhat similar styles to Jozy does not mean at all that Klinsman should have taken them. For one, we weren’t even set on our system really until we had success against Nigeria, which was long after cuts were made. More importantly, neither EJ nor Boyd is nearly as good as Jozy. Doesn’t matter what style they play; without enough talent or skill neither would help.

    • Donovan wouldn’t make ANY difference in this situation. He isn’t a target forward, and he’s even less suited to the role of tip of the spear than Wondo is.

      Give. It. Up. We made the World Cup essentially without Landon. We won our 1st match without him. The player we’re missing, if anyone, is Terrence Boyd.

      • The US needed composure once Altdiore and Dempsey were no longer 100%. Are you seriously saying you’d rather see Wondo, or Brad Davis coming off the bench in that scenario over Donovan?

      • You need to get over Donovan being cut. It’s over. Let’s talk about who is actually on the 23 man roster. It’s irrelevant and unproductive. When you get picked as MNT manager, you can pick the roster. I’m not saying there isn’t room for a discussion on the roster. I’m saying the time passed when we submitted our final roster to FIFA two weeks ago. This is the team in Brazil. Injuries are part of the game. IMO why Donovan didn’t make the team. At this point, I would rather have Davis, Wondo, or even god forbid Julian Green coming off the bench than Donovan. Why? Landon Donovan never wanted to take himself out of his comfort zone and actually challenge himself as a player. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice for himself, and most definitely for his teammates. His sabbatical reeked of self-entitlement. Mind you, I love Donovan and everything he’s done on the pitch for the US, BUT when you demand special treatment, people are going to resent you.

        Davis, Wondo, Green, etc. all put forth maximum effort in camp. They didn’t use the media to say you can no longer go hard for 2 straight weeks. It’s a hidden message of this coach is working us too hard. Donovan, ever win the WC? Klinsmann has. Ever coach a team to the semis? Ditto. But you were unwilling to test yourself and play a full season for Everton or elsewhere. Klinsmann has more respect for Altidore willing to endure a humiliating season in Sunderland than you? You ran back to the states every time you failed in Germany. Michael Bradley had some epic fails too in Europe like Villa and Borussa Munch. But he stuck with it. I think his TFC deal was about maintaining PT before the WC plus lots of cash. But Donovan just thought his past resume was good enough to book him a spot on the roster. Dempsey didn’t take it for granted he was going. Indeed, if on the night of the last Dos a Cero, you speculated which player wasn’t going to make it, Dempsey would have made more sense than Donovan. However, Dempsey demonstrated why JK made him the captain. Gutting out an hour plus w/ a broken nose was heroic. Donovan would have asked for a sub. Period.

      • I think the very fact that Altidore got injured shows that Klinsmann was right about Landycakes. Mind you I am a long time LD supporter, BUT when you make comments like I can’t go hard training 12 days in a row and you have had some nagging injuries, you see why he didn’t pick Donovan. It was an attitude/fitness/tactical decision. I do think JK anticipated the brutal physical conditions and how the travel, the heat, the competition, etc. would all tax the players unlike anything since Japan/Korea. As someone who played in 3 WCs, experiencing winning it, and coached to the semis, he knows what extra effort is needed. There is a fine line between winning and losing and sometimes it just takes a push to get there. JK has been that nudge. He’s achieved his first WC goal. BEAT GHANA. I believe.

    • Seriously.

      YAWN, this US team is so boring without Donovan on the squad. Just can’t get interested otherwise. Wondo or Johannson or Green? Meh. Who cares?

      Bradley not performing well against Ghana? Good. It’ll show all the Donovan haters that even the best players have off games and dry spells. Or, like Bradley, are deemed surplus from club (like happened in Italy).


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