Saturday’s match between Columbus Crew SC and the San Jose Earthquakes ended in a 2-0 win for the Ohio side, but it was still a big night for two NPSL alumni.  Chris Wondolowski, a seasoned veteran, was hours away from a major announcement and Andrew Tarbell, a rookie, would make his MLS debut.

Despite the disappointing road loss, Wondolowski had good news on Sunday in the form of a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for a pair of decisive World Cup Qualifying matches against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Wondolowski, 33, has made 34 appearances for the USMNT, scoring ten goals.  Wondolowski earned his first national team call-up in January 2011, following his breakout season for the Quakes in 2010. He has appeared for the United States in three CONCACAF Gold Cups and was the joint-leading scorer in the tournament as the U.S. captured the 2013 title. He also represented the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, appearing twice as a substitute.

Wondo has tallied 118 career MLS goals, fourth most in league history and the most among all active players in the league.  This is quite impressive since the Danville, California native is in just his 12th MLS season.  It’s easy to see that Wondolowski is a natural goalscorer and Jurgen Klinsmann obviously has taken notice of that once again.

Wondolowski has not forgotten his roots and remembers his time in the NPSL fondly.

“It was a great time, a great stepping stone.  It provided very high competition and helped me learn from some great players, some great veterans.  Especially in my college years in the summer, it definitely helped me.”

Tarbell is at the start of his career and entered the game once starting goalkeeper David Bingham went down with an injury.  It wasn’t an easy situation for Tarbell to say the least.

“Obviously you don’t want to see your teammate go down.  That’s tough to do.  You have to be ready all the time when you are on the bench.  I was just trying to stay calm and focus on playing soccer; it’s just another soccer game.”

The Mandeville, Louisiana native made an impact right away, making a key save within minutes of coming into the game.  When asked about his debut, Tarbell was obviously grateful for the opportunity, but had been hoping for a different result in the end.

“You want to get involved in the game and feel comfortable.  We started to put more pressure on them.  We were trying to possess the ball a little bit more and get in some dangerous areas.  That’s what we did, but it didn’t come off for us.”

Like Wondo, Tarbell enjoyed his time in the NPSL.

“It was great.  I got a great opportunity to play there when I was young.  I was 16 when I first started there.  That was a great transition to college.  There are a lot of good players in that league.  It was fantastic for my development for sure.”

Tarbell played for his local club, the New Orleans Jesters, and soon found himself as a standout at Clemson University. He would be the eighth pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.  Saturday was his first action of the MLS season.

All of us at the NPSL are excited to see what else this duo can accomplish in the years to come.  It’s an exciting time to be a fan or supporter of the NPSL and an even better time to be among the elite alumni of the NPSL.

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