When U.S. Soccer announced the call-ups for its January training camp, one name most San Jose Earthquakes fans were accustomed to seeing was missing: Chris Wondolowski. For the first time in six years, the Quakes talisman striker would not be joining his national team compatriots at the annual month-long gathering in Southern California, and instead would be gearing up for the MLS preseason on his own.
"Yeah, it's a little bit different." said Wondolowski. "I went to five in a row. It was great at getting you fit and ready to go, but now it is a little bit on myself to make sure I am ready to go."
The Earthquakes did have two players invited ahead of the camp: Midfielders Fatai Alashe and Marc Pelosi received their first call-ups to the senior side. In 2015, both featured prominently for the U.S. U-23 squad as it battled to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The team failed to qualify directly, and now will convene in March to face Colombia in a home-and-home aggregate series to determine which country will be represented in the August games.
But when both Alashe and Pelosi had to decline the invitations, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann turned to Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham. The Quakes' #1 played his first full season in goal last year and matched a club record for shutouts with 12. Bingham is joined on the U.S. roster by Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls and Sean Johnson of the Chicago Fire.
The camp features many more younger players than in years past, something the 33-year-old Wondolowski acknowledged was behind the decision by Klinsmann to exclude him, though the roster does include fellow 2014 World Cup veterans such as Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Jermaine Jones. Wondolowski's exclusion certainly doesn't mean the end of his U.S. men's national team career, not with CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and this summer's Copa America on the horizon.
"Yeah, definitely I talked to him," said Wondolowski. "I had a long conversation with him about things and different plans and different avenues for going in or not."
The annual January national team camp typically ends with a pair of international friendlies -- Wondo earned his first cap back in 2011 against Chile at the tail end of camp -- and Klinsmann is using the games to introduce some new names to the team. An exciting 3-2 win for the USA against Iceland last Sunday featured a game-winning-goal by DC United defender Steven Birnbaum, making only his second international appearance.
"He told me he was going to go with some young guys, but to be ready if they weren't fit," said Wondolowski. "If he didn't think they were ready for the games, he'd call me in, so I should be ready. And I was. But he did say that he was confident in those guys."
The USMNT concludes its camp with a friendly against Canada on Friday night at the StubHub Center. Bingham, who dressed for the match against Iceland, was on the bench in favor of starter Robles. The Earthquakes 'keeper is likely to earn his first USA cap against Canada.
The match will be televised live on Fox Sports 1, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific time. Head play-by-play man John Strong will call the game with former U.S. international Stuart Holden at his side. Fox will also have a pre-game show featuring Rob Stone, Alexi Lalas and Eric Wynalda that starts 30 minutes before game time.
In addition to the English-language broadcast on Fox Sports 1, a Spanish-language broadcast will air on UniMas. Subscription service Fox Sports Go will live-stream the match.
Match date/time: Friday, February 5, 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Venue: The StubHub Center, Carson, CA
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish)
Streaming: Fox Sports Go