When the MLS is mentioned we think about the likes of Beckham, Henry and Donovan.
However, none of these players have dominated the MLS in the way that Chris Wondolowski has this season.
Now if I mentioned his name to an average European football fan, I’m sure the response would be “who?!” And that wouldn’t be an unfair response either.
At the age of 29, Chris Wondolowski’s career has hardly set the world alight. As a striker, the fact that he only has 8 caps for the USA, who yearn for some quality up top, just speaks volumes.
However, it would be foolish to dismiss his ability based on a mediocre start to his career. If anything, he has proven to be a late bloomer. The past three years have certainly been a ‘boom’ period for him, as shown by his 61 goals over that period.
Although that achievement has flagged him up as a key man for the San Jose Earthquakes, it is his play this season that has earned him wider acclaim.
This is especially the case after he scored his 27th goal of the season from against the Portland Timbers in San Jose’s last game of the regular season.
This goal had a greater importance because it not only extended San Jose’s dominance over the rest of the league, but it also allowed Chris Wondolowski to equal a 26 year old record, set by Roy Lassiter for the number of goals scored in a single season.
What puts Wondolowski’s achievement apart is the greater sophistication the MLS now has. In its early days, the MLS was a free scoring affair with a number of players who were, for the most part, nowhere near the standard of the modern day American ‘soccer’ player.
With that being said, when quality players tended to ply their trade in the US back then, they tended to dominate. That is where Lassiter benefitted; he had the legend that is Carlos Valderrama as his playmaker.
Wondolowski on the other hand does not. Instead he has been influential in elevating the play of his midfielders: Sam Cronin and Rafael Baca, which in my opinion makes his goal tally that much more impressive. Furthermore, it ensures that he is a certainty for the league’s MVP award this year.
Great as these individual achievements may be, I’m sure that both Wondolowski and the Earthquakes will not be dwelling on it for too long. The team’s success will be of greater importance for them given the fact that the league’s playoffs are due to begin this week.
However, if he can continue his form by leading the Earthquakes to their third MLS Cup, then there will be no doubt that Wondolowski’s season will go down as one of the best in the history of the MLS, transforming him from talismanic striker to San Jose Earthquakes legend.
image: © bayareabias