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The Wondo-ful Way to Prepare for the Pre-Season

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Before leaving on January 3, 2012 for the U.S. Men’s National Team January Camp, Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes sat down and discussed what he does during the off season to prepare for the upcoming 2012 MLS season.

The San Jose Earthquakes finished their 2011 season with a satisfying win over FC Dallas on October 22, but the Quakes players were not released into the wild at that point. They had a few duties to perform that week, such as meeting with Season Ticket Holders at a club sponsored carnival and then completing over the course of a couple of days various fitness drills and tests for the Earthquakes trainers and coaches. These fitness tests, as 2011 team MVP Chris Wondolowski recalled, were to make sure everyone would have “an idea of where we needed to be when we came back for pre-season.”  By Wednesday, just four days removed from the season closer against FCD, players had a quick meeting with the coaches in the afternoon and were granted parole for thirteen weeks.

Although Wondolowski still had many appearances here and there for the Earthquakes and MLS up until the Christmas break, he did allow himself a two week ‘vacation’ before getting himself back into training for the 2012 season. During those two weeks, he didn’t touch a ball unless it was used for golf, opting instead to spend his precious time on 5 or 6 golf games with some buddies and to going to the gym.  However at the end of those precious weeks, Wondolowski got the call for which he and every Quakes fan were hoping: Jurgen Klinsmann coach of the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) informing him that he would be welcomed at the January camp.

Per Wondolowski, “Getting called into the Men’s National Team changed things for me. Instead of getting ready for the pre-season, I had to make sure I had my core fitness so I could come into camp in great shape. Basically being called in for January 3, I had to change things so I’d get there at almost my physical peak and I wouldn’t need to work my way into it.  So I just had to ramp it up, more of fitness, exercising, and getting back on the ball.”

This would be the Earthquakes striker’s second successive January in a USMNT camp, albeit this time around led by a different coach. When asked if he trained any differently for Klinsmann’s camp than for Bob Bradley’s one the year before, Wondolowski replied that he has kept the same outlook on it.  Although this year Klinsmann’s staff had sent each player a couple of emails about being really fit when they arrive to the camp, Wondolowski said that his preparations were pretty similar to last year.

Knowing Klinsmann’s take on US National players playing soccer close to year round, Chris had thought about seeing if he could go train in Europe with another club. “I kinda threw some things out there to see if there were any nibbles.  I talked to John Doyle and Frank Yallop about it and they were very supportive and had some ideas of where I could go; maybe Tottenham or somewhere like that. They made some calls but the timing of it was just a little too late and it just didn’t work out.” shared Wondolowski.

To prepare for the January Camp and 2012 MLS season, Chris stated that he’s been playing a lot and that he’s not just been going to the gym or running. “I really feel that it is important to use a fitness equipment  ball.  Your muscle memory can be the same when you’re tired as when you’re fresh so I think that is very important,” continued Wondolowski.  Although he doesn’t train with a coach during the off season, he has a lot of great guys that are around the Bay Area with whom to play with during Christmas break, and of course there is always his family. Chris confided that he has both his brother Stephen Wondolowski and his dad who he “drags out a whole lot”.  Stephen, Chris’ younger brother and former teammate on the Houston Dynamo, is currently one of the coaches for the San Jose Earthquakes Academy, and he really helps Chris out with various drills and ‘things of that nature’.

One of the things that Wondolowski has added this year to his fitness regime were some hill workouts in order to help with his first few steps and quickness. “I’ve done research and knew that some of the greats like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice really have spoken highly about the hill workouts and how really driving up the hill helps with their first couple of steps. I think that is something that I could work on; and have been working on a lot, as of late.” All of this seems to be ‘pretty basic stuff’ per Wondolowski but it seems to have driven the MLS Golden Boot winner of 2010 and Castrol Index Player of 2011 to excellence on the pitch.

Chris Wondolowski will join the rest of the San Jose Earthquakes already in their pre-season camp on January 26, after the US Men’s National Team finishes their January camp with friendly matches against Venezuela (January 21) and Panama (January 25).

(Photo: Kelley L. Cox, centerlinesoccer.com)