SAN JOSE, Calif. — Earlier this week, San Jose Earthquakes captain Jason Hernandez admitted an obvious truth: The team had been trying a little too hard to get that first home victory of 2011. They opened the opened the season 0-2-2 at Buck Shaw Stadium before beating the Columbus Crew, 3-0, last weekend.
“It was a long time coming,” Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com. “You could feel the tension and the stress and the pressing around here.”
There’s a bit of ironic humor, then, in the fact that the win, when it came, was sparked by a guy who might have more individual pressure on him than any other player in MLS.
With two-goal scorer Simon Dawkins out a few more weeks at a minimum due to surgery on both calves, Chris Wondolowski is once again shouldering the majority of weight when it comes to San Jose’s offense. Wondolowski had the second-largest percentage of a team’s goals in a single MLS season last year when he tallied 18 of San Jose’s 34 goals (52.9 percent).
This year’s percentage had been even higher than that, at least until Saturday, when Brandon McDonald and Khari Stephenson joined Wondolowski in the scoring column during the Quakes’ rout of the Crew. Through nine matches, Wondolowski has exactly half of San Jose’s 10 goals.
Yet even though it’s well documented that Wondolowski is the spark plug in San Jose’s engine, opposing defenses still can’t seem to stop him. And with three goals in his last four matches, it seems like Wondolowski is on the verge of another one of his patented scoring sprees — if he isn’t already on one.
Ahead of this weekend’s match against the visiting New England Revolution (10:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live), Wondolowski lies tied for third on the MLS goal-scoring standings, one behind D.C. United’s Charlie Davies and two back of LA’s Landon Donovan. Not that Wondolowski seems to care.
“Getting goals don’t really mean anything unless they’re for points or for wins,” he said. “That’s the thing I try to take pride in, trying to have those goals mean something. They don’t mean anything if you’re losing 4-1 and you score. I’m just hoping that we can keep getting some [victories] together. When I’m there with those guys in the amount of wins, then I’ll come out and say something.”
Wondolowski took full advantage against the Crew of having Steven Lenhart — finally fully fit, or at least as fit as he’s been this season — forcing the action in front of him. Wondolowski criticized himself for failing to put two first-half layoffs from Lenhart on frame, but made up for it in the second half when he eased into space made vacant by Lenhart and volleyed home Ryan Johnson’s cross.
“We’re getting more and more on the same page,” Wondolowski said of Lenhart, who was acquired in a draft-day trade this winter. “He helps me a lot. He understands the game really well. He’s just a force up there.”
So too, once again, is Wondolowski. Which has his captain feeling a little better about playing at home.
“One thing I’ve learned about Wondo is that no matter what the case may be, he’s going to get at least two good chances a match,” Hernandez said. “And he’s the kind of guy where all he really needs is two looks and he’ll have two goals. I think the sign of a true goal-scorer is that in a small amount of opportunities, he capitalizes on them. And I think he’s gearing up to go on a tear again.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes