By Drew Farmer – Twitter: @Calciofarmer
In Chris Wondolowski’s first five Major League Soccer seasons, the San Jose Earthquakes’ striker tallied a combined seven league goals. In the five seasons that came next, Wondolowski notched 86, including 27 goals in 32 games during the 2012 campaign.
This season, the former fourth round MLS Supplemental Draft pick has been on fire, scoring eight goals in 13 appearances for the ‘Quakes. Second in MLS in scoring, Wondolowski has contributed 57% of the team’s goals. The remainder of San Jose’s 14 strikes have been spread across six different players, each with one goal.
So where would San Jose be without Chris Wondolowski?
Right now the Earthquakes are just outside the last playoff place in the highly competitive Western Conference. After a mediocre opening month to the season, San Jose have been solid since the beginning of May. Two wins, three draws and a loss currently place the Earthquakes fifth in the MLS overall form table.
During their current run, Wondolowski has been in brilliant form, bagging five of his eight goals. In that time, the former Houston Dynamo striker has scored from all areas, including four goals from open play, three penalties and one set piece, according to Whoscored.com.
His last two goals have come from the penalty spot as the club’s attack produced few chances in front of goal. Worryingly San Jose have shown an inability to score when Wondolowski can’t find the back of the net.
One move that has paid off for Dominic Kinnear’s ‘Quakes has been Wondolowski’s move to midfield. In an attempt to get their best players on the pitch this season, Wondolowski leading by example, moved positions. In eight matches, the San Jose captain has scored five times from the centre of midfield.
On May 24, Wondolowski became the ninth MLS player to score his 100th MLS goal. His ability to reach the century-mark was proof that sticking with a player with potential can pay off. Too often in the current MLS climate, teams trade and disregard young American or Canadian players based on a run of bad form.
Wondolowski benefitted from mid-2000s MLS and teams hanging on to hardworking players. That time allowed him to learn to be one of the best strikers in the North American game.
Though he is a former two-time MLS Cup winner with Houston in 2007 and 2008, Wondolowski tallied a total of two goals over those cup winning seasons. Currently with a “small market team”, Wondolowski’s chances of adding to his trophy collection could be limited.
Despite the Earthquakes winning the 2012 Supporters’ Shield thanks to a team built on graft and teamwork, San Jose were no match for the more glamorous MLS teams in the playoffs.
While San Jose may be an outsider to win an MLS Cup this year or next, Wondolowski would be an obvious upgrade for many of the teams around the league.
However, it would take an extremely ambitious general manager and/or owner to pull off such a move. A move that could deplete a team for the long-term to obtain short-term rewards. And as most know, MLS teams try to build for the long-term. In regards to salary, Wondolowski was guaranteed $650,000 in 2014 – a Designated Player contract that several teams in MLS could take on.
With San Jose knocking on the door for a playoff place, San Jose will continue to covet their prized jewel, which, for San Jose supporters is just fine. A fan mutiny at the newly opened Avaya Stadium could ensue if Wondolowski were to be traded.
And losing their best player is the last thing the ‘Quakes want to happen at the house that Wondolowski built.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that has written for Forza Italian Football and World Soccer Talk. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, English football and USA soccer.