The U.S. men's national team play the second of two international friendlies to start 2015 when it faces Panama at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Following a 3-2 away loss to Chile a week ago -- a loss that stretched the USA's losing streak to three matches -- the Yanks come home hoping to get back on track in a year that they will contest the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
And one player in particular that will be looking to make a difference is San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. One of four strikers on the 22-man roster for the match against Panama, Wondolowski would like nothing better than to have a chance to score against La Marea Roja.
Back in January 2011, Wondolowski earned his first cap for the national team, playing in a 1-1 draw against Chile at the same stadium that will host Sunday's game against Panama. The MLS Golden Boot winner in 2010 was a late bloomer in terms of his inclusion in the USMNT, but his scoring touch with the Quakes made him an enticing selection by then head coach Bob Bradley. That spring, Wondolowski would make the roster for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
In just his fourth appearance for the USMNT, Wondolowski came on as a substitute against Panama in a Gold Cup group stage match (Interestingly, Wondolowski entered the match as a substitute for his current San Jose teammate Clarence Goodson). He had a golden chance to score for the U.S. at a time in the match when they were trailing to Panama. His miss from just inside the six-yard box was roundly criticized, especially as the game ended in Panama's favor, marking the first time in the tournament's history that the USA had lost a group stage game.
The USMNT would beat Panama in the rematch in the tournament's semifinal round, but Wondolowski played no part in the victory. He would get his own opportunity to make amends the following January when the U.S. team traveled to Panama City for a friendly. Wondolowski started that match, which the USA eventually won 1-0, but did not factor into the game winning goal by Graham Zusi.
It would not be until the lead up to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup that Wondolowski would finally score for the national team, the third USA goal in a 6-0 pasting of Guatemala in a tune-up match before the tournament. It proved to be just the boost Wondolowski needed, as the prolific MLS scorer netted five times and captured a share of the Gold Cup Golden Boot award.
The miss against Panama back in 2011 was soon forgotten, and Wondolowski enjoyed a good run of form for the USMNT and was selected by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to the 2014 FIFA World Cup roster. The huge honor was welcomed by Wondolowski, but his experience in Brazil will always be remembered for "The Miss" suffered against Belgium in the Round of 16. Not one to shy away from his failures, Wondolowski has used that miss, much like he did the miss against Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup before, as motivation to train harder than ever. Klinsmann continues to show faith in Wondolowski, and on Sunday he might get the chance to once again score a goal for the USA.
The game against Panama is scheduled to kick-off at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time and will be broadcast live on television networks ESPN and UniMas, as well as on the Internet at univisiondeportes.com. If you can't find a TV or won't be in front of your computer, you can follow the match on Twitter through the official U.S. Soccer handle, @ussoccer.
Wondolowski has earned 26 caps for the U.S. men's national team since his debut in 2011, and he has scored nine goals. He will hope to add to both on Sunday, his last match with the USA this MLS offseason, before returning to San Jose and reuniting with his Earthquakes teammates for preseason training.