With Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup roster announcement less than three months away, the pressure is on MLS players in contention for berths in Brazil to perform right away.
For a pair of MLS-based World Cup hopefuls who have been in Klinsmann's good graces over the past year, the 2014 campaign has started off on the right foot. Both Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman scored goals in San Jose's thrilling 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake with the spotlight shining bright on both of them.
Wondolowski began his quest for a fifth-straight double-digit goal season with an early tally against Real Salt Lake (was he offside? Certainly looked like it), popping up in the right place like he typically does to redirect a Victor Bernardez header past Nick Rimando off a free kick. He nearly had a second, if not for staunch reflexes from Rimando, another MLS standout who has an eye on Brazil.
Beckerman answered in kind, unleashing a low, left-footed blast from long range to build on his strong overall showing against the LA Galaxy in RSL's season opener with another complete showing in his second match.
With Wondolowski, his case for Brazil has seemed to always be predicated on making sure that he does enough in his U.S. chances to stay in the picture and then go on a goal-scoring run at the start of the MLS season to hammer home his point and force Klinsmann's hand. Between his goals over the summer and his January camp-closing double vs. South Korea, he has managed to do just that, staying afloat among a deep sea of forward options. Beckerman's spot has been perceived as more secure, considering his repeated call-ups and Klinsmann lauding what he brings to the table, offering reliable depth behind likely World Cup starters Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
Both players have more high-profile opportunities in the offing. Wondolowski's Earthquakes head to Toluca for the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series on Wednesday, while Beckerman has another showdown with the Galaxy on Saturday.
Both figure to be in the mix for the friendly against Mexico on April 2 as well, with the game being billed as a final in-person audition for MLS and Liga MX-based players after the Ukraine friendly earlier in March served that purpose for European-based players. Based on their early showings, they've done nothing to cast doubt on their places in that camp.