The Miracle on Grass moment slipped through the surefooted Chris Wondolowski on Tuesday.

With an entire nation nervously watching, Wondolowski, 31, missed a golden chance to deliver America to soccer's promised land in a dramatic World Cup knockout game in Salvador, Brazil.

The Earthquakes star booted a close-range shot over the net in the waning moments of regulation time as Belgium went on to win 2-1 after 120 riveting minutes. The Red Devils, and not the Americans, will face Argentina on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

But for a fleeting moment, it looked as if the country would discover what Quakes fans have come to appreciate from their uncanny goal scorer.

It could not have been scripted any better for the Danville native in the 93rd minute of the round of 16 game. He was included on the 23-man U.S. roster for just such a moment.

"I'm gutted to have let down everyone but especially my teammates," Wondolowski tweeted about an hour after the emotional game. "It's been an incredible ride but I know this will make me stronger."

His brother and coach don't doubt it after watching the man they call Wondo rebound after previous misses.

"It's like an old saying in our family: 'You get the glory when you score and you've got to take the responsibility when you miss,' " brother Stephen Wondolowski said Tuesday. "It might be fair or unfair but that is just the life of being a forward."


Advertisement

Stephen, 29, gathered with a small group of friends at his Walnut Creek home to watch his brother and the U.S. team try to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the second time in the modern era.

The emotions increased as the game continued without a goal. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent Wondolowski in for Graham Zusi in the 73rd minute to try to re-energize a stagnant offense.

Just as it appeared the game was headed to 30 minutes of extra time, the resilient Jermaine Jones found Wondolowski in the penalty area with a nicely played header. The De La Salle High alum patiently waited to remain onside.

When the ball landed at his lethal foot, Wondolowski prepared for the miracle shot. But 6-foot-6 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came off his line simultaneously, forcing Wondo to try to kick it over him.

It skied well beyond the net.

Earthquakes coach Mark Watson watched the unfolding drama from the team offices in Santa Clara with his staff.

"It was classic Wondo," Watson said of the play. "He just had a sense where the ball would wind up. He timed it right. Being at the right place at the right time is half the battle."

But the coach said converting that goal wasn't as easy as some are suggesting because of how Courtois cut off the angle.

"If goal scoring was easy there would be 50 goals a game," Watson added.

Stephen Wondolowski, though, knows his brother won't make excuses. Wondo, after all, is harder on himself than the worst social media critic.

"He owns it," said Stephen, a former UC Santa Cruz star who briefly played for the Houston Dynamo. "Sometimes he owns those misses too much. I know Chris is going to get past it.

"But I don't think everybody else will get past that. That's just sports."

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.