Chris Wondolowski had impressed over the summer against CONCACAF minnows in the Gold Cup. Sure he can score against Guatemala and Belize, but can he score against the rest of the world?
Turns out, he can. Wondolowski's two goals in the 4th and 6th minutes led the United States to a 2-0 victory over South Korea in the USA's 2014 opener from the StubHub Center in Carson, CA.
Wondolowski opened the scoring minutes into the game nodding home his first goal following a sliding shot from Brad Evans. Graham Zusi crossed the ball from the right wing and found Davis on the back post and despite a nice initial save by Korean keeper Jung Sung-Ryong (1 save), Wondo was unmarked to head home the rebound from point blank range. The second goal was also started by Zusi after he created a turnover in his own half. The ensuing possession led to a throw in and another cross from Zusi into the box that ended up being a neat little touch and/or deflection from Landon Donovan that found Wondo unmarked from 10 yards out and he finished into the upper corner.
A late flurry from South Korea forced Nick Rimando (3 saves) into action to preserve his shutout. In the dying minutes, Rimando and the US defense had to stave off a dangerous free kick, corner and a breakaway counter that Rimando stuffed out to keep his clean sheet.
Wondolowski has strengthened his case for a roster spot in Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man roster in Brazil this summer but he'll still have to earn that spot. Regular strikers Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson will likely be on the roster and Eddie Johnson, Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez are also in the mix. At the very least, the San Jose Earthquakes' striker will continue to get looks in future camps leading up to Brazil.
The overall US performance left a little to be desired, especially in the first half. Brad Evans in particular look all out of sorts in the opening forty-five and Brad Davis (and more importantly, Davis' left foot) was playing in front of him for part of that time. It lead to a few chances that Korea should have put on goal but didn't. For a team that had almost 60% of the possession it should lead to more than just three total shots. Too often the US had the ball at their feet inside the area and nothing came of it, a golden chance for Diskerud in the first half comes to mind but the midfielder couldn't find the ball underneath his shoes.
Still, the US came out and in the second half well with no changes and earned the second goal to and kept the game out of reach from Korea. For the first game of the calendar year, the US picked up a victory and there were no significant injuries on either side. There's not a whole lot more the US could've accomplished here.
Luis Gil, DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Alexander all made their debuts for the US Men's National Team as substitutes.
GK Nick Rimando (7) - Some atrocious South Korea finishing didn't give him the hardest day in the first half, but a solid finish to the game and preserved his shutout in the dying minutes. It's long been confirmed that Rimando is the USMNT's third keeper and a solid outing for the RSL keeper.
LB Michael Parkhurst (7) - Got forward well, combined on his passing and recovered when necessary on defense. A standout complete performance for a defense that was overall less than stellar in the first half.
CB Matt Besler / CB Omar Gonzalez (6) - Some nervy moments in the first half but overall most of the problems were coming from the flanks, not down the center. US dominated the air defensively for the most part thanks to these two. Passing going forward still leaves a little to be desired.
RB Brad Evans (4) - First half certainly brought back questions about the USA's right back situation, and did nothing to help his cause in the second. With Geoff Cameron playing well at Stoke and Parkhurst's day at LB, Evans still has to earn his spot on the plane to Brazil.
LM Brad Davis (5) - An up and down day for the solid Dynamo wide player, had the initial shot that led to Wondo's goal and good services along with bad turnovers. Should never play on the right side, awful pairing defensively with Evans when he was switched.
CM Mix Diskerud (5) - With the freedom he had to go forward paired with Beckerman, I probably had too high of an expectation for Diskerud today. Wanted to see him impact the game with his passing and like Donovan, lacked a signature moment despite a solid overall game.
CM Klye Beckerman (6.5) - Nothing out of the ordinary from Beckerman. Tidy on the ball (91% passing), shut down passing lanes among the little things he always does well. Had an outside-of-the-foot no-look pass that sprang Donovan on the left wing too.
RM Gharam Zusi (8) - Great overall day for the Sporting KC man. Had the early cross that found Davis and then Wondo on the rebound, caused the turnover that led to his assist on Wondo's second. Really stating his case for not only Brazil, but to start.
AM Landon Donovan (6) - Not a bad day but he failed to put his personal stamp on the game even though that's what it really needed for long stretches. Distributed well going forward though but seemed to lack something on the ball individually.
ST Chris Wondolowski (8) - He continued to put his name in the conversation for Brazil. Was the best attacker on the day not named Zusi by far for the USA and opened the scoring neatly in the third minute and opening up the game with his second on the hour mark.
SUB Eddie Johnson (6) - Didn't have a lot of time to make an impact, but a good shift of the bench despite carrying an injury. Hold up play looked good.
SUB Benny Feilhaber (6) - Again, nothing spectacular just a lot of good work off the bench for Benny in his first cap in a few years.
SUB Clarence Goodson (6) - Veteran came on and did well, got forward enough to support the possession late in the game.
SUB Luis Gil (N/A) - Nothing more than a cameo for the young RSL man, wrongly whistled for a foul in his opening minute in my opinion.
SUB DeAndre Yedlin / SUB Eric Alexander (4) - Congrats on your debuts guys, but that foul late in the game that gave Korea a dangerous free kick? Yeah