Since its berth as a 30-minute television production and to its current iteration as a MLSsoccer.com video series, MLS Insider has presented some of the great stories that surround the league and its players. In this week's episode, the MLS Insider crew gives a heroes' welcome to the U.S. men's national team stars that recently returned to MLS from the World Cup in Brazil.
Captain Clint Dempsey is greeted back to Seattle by a packed house at CenturyLink Field. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi get feted by a solid out Sporting Park crowd. Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando tell how the experience in Brazil will only make them and their Real Salt Lake team even better. DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley get some face time, and even Omar Gonzalez gets a cut-in of his return to StubHub Center with the LA Galaxy.
Who didn't get a heroes' welcome in the documentary? The San Jose Earthquakes' own Chris Wondolowski. (Of note, his best friend Brad Davis was also forgotten.) Somehow Wondo was good enough to represent his country but wasn't deemed worth of inclusion by MLS Insider?
Some snarky and rather cynical comments on social media suggested that Wondolowski didn't deserve to be labeled a hero, not after his agonizing miss against Belgium in stoppage time that would have broken a scoreless draw and sent the USA through to the quarterfinals. Others suggested that Wondo should be booed for his USMNT performance by fans whenever the Quakes came to town. One post went so far as to say that he should get a "zero's welcome" instead.
MLS made a big deal about its growing representation at this year's World Cup. 22 players from 14 MLS teams represented their home countries in the biggest sporting event on the planet. "For Club and Country" was the slogan that adorned scarves and billboards. And for the 10 players that hailed from MLS on the 23-man USA roster, the push for recognition was even stronger. The national team was getting better with every World Cup cycle, and MLS was there pushing the program forward.
Only 10 players from MLS made the U.S. squad, multiples more did not, and every one of the 10 deserved a heroes' welcome on his return, Wondolowski included. The Miss, as it will forever be known, was tragic not just for the magnitude of the moment, but as a missed opportunity for Wondo to propel himself into the American soccer pantheon of legends. Paul Caligiuri and his shot heard round the world, Brandi Chastain and her famous sports bra, Landon Donovan and his last gasp goal against Algeria to win the group for the USA -- Wondolowski was an on-target shot attempt away from joining that exclusive company.
Sure, he missed, and the match against Belgium ended scoreless after regulation. The U.S. defense would finally capitulate in extra time -- no one seems to fault Besler for his failure to prevent a breakaway on the first Belgium goal -- and Team USA dropped a difficult 2-1 decision. Wondolowski did not lose the game for the USMNT; he simply did not win it when he had the chance. Strikers sometimes miss: Just ask Dempsey, who missed a game-tying goal -- set up by Wondolowski -- with only the 'keeper to beat late in extra time, whether he makes every scoring opportunity that comes his way.
The Miss should not preclude Wondo from joining his fellow MLS stars in a heroes' welcome. Like Gonzalez' cameo appearance, at the very least the same should have been done for Wondo (and Davis, too!). In his first appearance back in San Jose, Wondolowski was treated to a standing ovation on his return to action for the Quakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. He even scored in that contest, a 2-1 loss to DC United, ending a scoreless streak the team experienced in his absence, San Jose's hero was back, and he was very welcome.