At the moment, nothing seems to be going wrong for the San Jose Earthquakes. A 3-0 domination of the Montreal Impact kept their CONCACAF Champions League hopes alive. And more importantly, the team finally figured out how to win on the road with two consecutive away victories against Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA. Those six points have been massive for the Earthquakes’ playoff ambitions and have brought the team within striking distance to snatch the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot. Currently sitting in sixth, the Quakes are just a point away from equaling the Colorado Rapids and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Oddly enough those two teams, in that order, are the upcoming games on San Jose’s schedule. It goes without saying that Quakes fans should be feeling pretty good right about now. Good, but not ecstatic since the team cannot make playoff plans just yet. The possibility of coming up empty is a still a cold reality, so a continued push and display of grit is paramount right now. Similarly, one Quake is in the early stages of his own battle that will require the same hard work, and then some.
San Jose’s Clarence Goodson is embroiled in a crusade to earn his place on the USA Men’s national team. Unlike his defensive colleague, Victor Bernardez, who is a regular for the Honduran national team, Goodson has yet to legitimately seal his name on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster. But unlike Bernardez’s Honduras, the United States booked their plane ticket to Brazil after winning the CONCACAF hex outright on a night in Columbus with a scoreboard that read, USA: 2, Mexico 0. Goodson was called up for that match on a moments notice and played exceptionally for the entirety of the game. He helped shut out Mexico’s attack, which has been stagnant, but still potent given the pedigree of players upfront such as Manchester United’s Chicharito Hernandez. But it was not a task to grand for Goodson, who told us it was just a matter of simple organization.
“Limiting their chances, getting into a good shape. Mexico was really trying to counterattack for the most part and they sat back a lot, which is something I’ve never really seen from Mexico before,” commented a surprised Goodson before adding, “Omar (Gonzalez) and I did a good job of organizing the guys up front.”
Yet although his short notice, high pressure performance was as fantastic as his Gold Cup form earlier in the summer, when asked if he felt assured that his squad selection was set, Goodson replied honestly, “There is no guarantees, I just try to go in and prove myself every time I get a chance, every time I’m called.” He continued by saying, “Things obviously change quickly in professional sports, so you never know. Just continue to try and improve and when you get a chance you do a good job.”
And a good job at the very least is exactly what Goodson brings to the Quakes and the USMNT, Quake’s head coach Mark Watson emphasized Goodson’s impact that he wields on any starting XI, “He’s going to add stability to any backline, he’s played the game long enough where he’s seen the same situation a thousand times, played against target guys, quick guys, those qualities are great.”
It is hard to argue with Watson after seeing his performances in San Jose and for the national team, Goodson is confident in the air and positions himself rather instinctively well when the opposition is threatening the goal.
Goodson began his MLS career with FC Dallas in 2004 and then four years later, he made the dramatic switch to Norwegian soccer and enjoyed a successful time overseas, “It strengthened me personally and professionally, it made me a stronger person and more mentally tough.”
And now upon returning to the MLS, that mental toughness is constructive considering how the league has evolved since playing in Texas.
“Getting a lot more international players changes the game a bit, things that the league didn’t have before, brings different flair,” reflected Goodson on the MLS’ recent growth.
Along with the additional flair, the league is also very physical. Every ball is contested so feverously that you seldom find players able to settle, slow down the pace, and pass the ball around methodically. This physical style also is key amongst the Quakes. With Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, a.k.a. the Bash Brothers, those two forward constantly test opponent’s backlines and nerves. Playing in this revamped domestic league and on the Earthquakes does make Goodson more battle hardened and prepares him for the world stage. Now of course the MLS is still far off from the best leagues around the globe and surely, the USMNT will be entering the tournament representing one of the weakest regions in the spectrum. But, if they can play to their strengths that their upstart league possess, that can bode well for the Red, White, and Blue. A lot of soccer remains to be played before the opening ceremony, but when it comes to international tournament play, you generally stick to your domestic elements and strive to hit good form. There is not enough time for nuance. Goodson can provide those qualities and if he gets more opportunities to partner with Gonzalez or Matt Besler in the buildup to the tournament, Klinsmann ought to look his way.
Partnering with Gonzalez is still very much an open audition for the USMNT. Currently, Besler, Goodson, and Geoff Cameron are shaping up to be the main contenders for this role. Goodson will be 32 by the time the World Cup begins, so like he said, nothing is guaranteed. However, if he stays healthy and continues to be a dominating presence in the back for the Quakes, his veteran presence in Brazil is a possibility.