Wondolowski Records Record Haul

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Just three weeks ago, the San Jose Earthquakes inched above the red line into seventh place in Major League Soccer’s western division with a 1-0 victory over the league’s newest member, FC Cincinnati. Forward Danny Hoesen was the starter, and forward Chris Wondolowski, one of the greatest players in MLS history, appeared relegated to clean up duty late in multiple matches.

Wondo Watch, as it was popularly called, had been going on since late in the 2018 season. Wondolowski was just one goal away from tying Landon Donovan’s MLS record of 145 goals in league play. Wondo was two away from owning the record outright. Neither achievement was realized in 2018, and with limited minutes late in nearly every match in 2019, those goals appeared even more difficult to achieve.

Despite Wondo’s limited late presence on the pitch, the Quakes had been playing well, and were now back above the line. It seemed as though new Head Coach Matias Almeyda’s strategy was working well. Then came last week’s road match versus the New England Revolution. The Quakes not only lost the match, they appeared flat from start to finish. With other clubs capturing critical points, San Jose fell back below the line once again. They returned home to regroup, refocus, and prepare for their next opponent, the Chicago Fire.

Last Saturday’s match was serious. The Earthquakes needed a win to remain closely in contention to move back above the red line. In the days before the match, most people assumed the strategy would remain the same: Chris Wondolowski would enter late, if at all, and spend the final minutes working hard to get an opportunity to find the back of the net.

The strategy changed. Danny Hoesen suffered an apparent injury in training one day before the match. It wasn’t clear whether he’d be able to compete. By match time, Wondo got the call and was back in the starting lineup. What happened next was incredible. It went well beyond the story anyone would have planned to tell. It was one for the ages. It was the glorious achievement of history with a command and dominance that only the greatest of all time could be capable of.

Chicago entered the match having won three straight supported by a stingy defense that did not give up a goal. San Jose, on the other hand, was coming off a road loss. However, they had won three straight at home scoring an impressive eight goals, while giving up only one.

Fans were excited to see Wondo on the pitch. As the match got underway, it was clear both clubs were choosing to open aggressively. Just 21 minutes into the match, everything changed. Hope turned to joy, prayers became reality, and history was being written.

Chris Wondolowski scored his first goal just 21 minutes into the match off a brilliant pass from teammate Shea Salinas. Wondo tied Landon Donovan’s record (145 MLS goals in league play). The crowd went wild. Only 27 minutes later, at the 48’ mark, he did it again. This time, Wondo maintained focus in the face of Fire keeper David Ousted, who dropped the ball, and followed through with a tap-in finish that gave him the record outright. The crowd went wild. No one expected it, not even Wondo himself. The first half ended. Everyone, including Chris Wondolowski, simultaneously celebrated and breathed a sigh of relief. It was done. The record was broken. Wondo had a brace.

Enter the second half. Minutes went by, Wondo remained in, and it was clear Chicago wasn’t giving up. Wondo fought on, and in the 74th minute, he scored again. Move the record. Note the hat trick. It came off an assist from teammate Cristian Espinoza. Just two minutes later, however, at the 76’ mark, Wondo scored again, this time off an assist from teammate Jackson Yueill. Move the record again. Note the official designation. For a moment, no one seemed to know what to call it. Hat +1? Double brace? No, it’s called a haul! Wondo got a haul!

To be clear, number 145 was fantastic. Number 146 was unbelievable. Number 147 was amazing bordering insane. Number 148 was, well, mind-blowing. It literally defied comprehension. There’s no question now, Chris Wondolowski is the greatest of all time. The team logged 21 shots, 7 of those were on target, and 4 resulted in goals courtesy of one man: future MLS Hall of Famer Chris Wondolowski.

What makes Wondo worthy of the Hall of Fame? Besides his current total of 148 goals in MLS league play, he has 41 game-winning goals. He’s currently tied with Landon Donovan in that regard. While he has tallied both braces and hat tricks in the past, this was his first recorded haul.

He’s the only player to score ten or more goals in what is now nine consecutive seasons (2010-2018), and he’s now only six goals away from making that ten plus in ten straight. No other MLS player has ever scored ten or more goals in a season more than five seasons in a row. Wondo has also scored 144 of his 148 goals with San Jose. That’s the most by any player with a single club. Remember, he’s not done yet.

Wondo also holds the record for MLS road goals at 67; and as previously mentioned, he’s tied with Landon Donovan with 41 game winning goals. No fewer than 14 of his game winning goals have been in 1-0 victories, that too being an MLS record. He’s also the only player in MLS history to score against two dozen different teams. No one in MLS history has scored against more keepers during his career, Wondo has scored against 59 of them to date.

There’s one more thing that makes one hall-worthy: humility. Asked about how the record-setting goal happened, Chris Wondolowski humbly said, "I'm just having fun right now." Fun indeed.

When asked how the moment felt, he said, "it was pretty special." Yes, yes it was.

Ever the professional, discussing his activation in the starting lineup, Wondo said, "I'm always ready, always ready to go. I know my role. I know my job." For the record, no one ran harder after the matches that preceded the one versus Chicago. That’s why he’s always ready. He’s always prepared.

Earthquakes Head Coach Matias Almeyda echoes that sentiment. About Wondo, he said, "he's a great professional and a great team member."

Wondo’s teammates agree. Shea Salinas said, "He's an incredible person, an incredible teammate, and an incredible goal-scorer."

It’s also worth noting that Chris Wondolowski scored his first MLS goal against the Chicago Fire in 2006. By capturing the record against them, things have indeed come full circle. He’s been named MLS Player of the Week for Week 12, but he’s surely hall-bound in the future.

The Earthquakes face Toronto FC on Sunday, May 26 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. The team does not return to Avaya Stadium until Saturday, June 8, to play FC Dallas. Kickoff is currently scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Fans interested in tickets can find them through the Earthquakes website.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and the San Jose Earthquakes, since 2014. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi. All images taken by Irina Filenko for American Presswire and ©2019 American Presswire. She can be found on Twitter as @FilenkoIrene and on Instagram as @stillfragments.


Earthquakes find their stride

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The turnaround is underway. After a challenging start under a new coach that echoed much of last season's results, the Earthquakes have found their stride. The club is above the red line in seventh place in the Western Conference. They’re unbeaten in four consecutive matches and have won three straight at home. They have the longest unbeaten streak in the west, and they’re tied for second longest in the league. Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill said, “The start of the season we had was a little rough. I think we were getting used to the system.”

The Earthquakes have certainly gotten used to the system. There’s a different energy during warm-ups, a swagger and confidence, all evidence of buy-in to Head Coach Matias Almeyda’s strategic plan. The team has developed a potent front that has outscored opponents 8-1 and tallied 11 goals since losing to LAFC. In stark contrast to that late March shutout in which LAFC put up 5 goals at Avaya Stadium, a suddenly stingy Earthquakes back line has not allowed a goal in two consecutive matches and is thus central to San Jose earning consecutive shutouts for the first time in two years.

The Earthquakes’ Saturday night performance versus FC Cincinnati was a clear demonstration of the grit and determination the club now possesses. The 1-0 FT shutout victory hardly tells the story. During the match, the team drew four yellow cards, two of which went against midfielder Cristian Espinoza and resulted in a red card ejection in only the 51st minute. The Earthquakes played the rest of the match with only 10 men. While defender Nick Lima scored the only goal early, in the 22nd minute, the team never stopped fighting and produced 11 shots on goal. Almeyda said it best, “The players are understanding how to identify with San Jose as a club. They are leaving their soul in every play."

Not to be forgotten is the Earthquakes performance in goal. Keeper Daniel Vega has been outstanding. His league-leading 39 saves have led to three shutouts, and his performance on Saturday did not disappoint. His acrobatic save late in the match denied FC Cincinnati midfielder, and former Earthquakes midfielder, Fatai Alashe from equalizing. That was clutch. Vega is an essential part of the team’s turnaround.

While the Earthquakes fan favorite and presumptive future hall of fame member Chris Wondolowski entered the match late and didn’t score a goal, he did set the stage for yet another remarkable achievement. His next appearance will be his 300th appearance with the team, something only four other men have ever accomplished in MLS. One match away from 300, one goal away from tying the MLS record, watching Wondo make history is both surreal and fantastic.

Unbeaten in five of their last six matches, the Earthquakes face the New England Revolution on Saturday, May 11 at Gillette Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. The team returns to Avaya Stadium to play the Chicago Fire on Saturday, May 18, with kickoff currently scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Fans interested in tickets can find them through the Earthquakes website.

Ahsan Awan has been covering pro and college sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, including Major League Soccer, since 2014. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi, and on Instagram as @quackarazzi. All images taken by Ahsan Awan and ©2019 American Presswire (Twitter: @ampresswire).