SAN JOSE, Calif. — With only eight matches remaining, the San Jose Earthquakes’ chances of capping a second consecutive season with a playoff appearance are growing slimmer by the week.
When it comes to individual awards, however, one Quake is still in the thick of his own personal race for a repeat.
With his 87th-minute equalizer Saturday at Toronto FC, Chris Wondolowski recorded his ninth goal of the season. Barring a stunning spree, Wondolowski won’t match his 2010 Golden Boot-winning output of 18 goals, but as the Quakes rest up this week in advance of a busy mid-September slate, the 28-year-old sits in a three-way tie for fifth on the league scoring chart, just three tallies behind league leader Thierry Henry.
For Wondolowski, the goal broke a 554-minute personal scoreless stretch, and it bore the hallmarks of many of his 2010 scores. As Jacob Peterson launched a long throw from the left sideline for Bobby Burling to flick on at the corner of the six-yard box, San Jose forward Matt Luzunaris made a diagonal run across the goalmouth, dragging TFC left back Ashtone Morgan with him.
When Toronto center back Ty Harden didn’t fill the defensive vacuum, Wondolowski strolled to within three yards of the back post before placing a right-footed redirection into the net.
It was reminiscent of Wondolowski’s goal last May in Seattle, where a cross from deep on the sideline was headed on by Brandon McDonald, then knocked on by Burling to a wide-open Wondolowski at the far post.
“I definitely knew that Jacob Peterson had a long throw, so we were setting up for it,” Wondolowski said. “Bobby Burling had a great flick, and I was just trying to crash the back post.”
Quakes coach Frank Yallop would have taken a goal from anywhere. He knows this one, however, might carry some added significance if it helps ignite a stretch kick from Wondolowski similar to what he displayed last year, when he delivered 10 goals, including two hat tricks, over the final eight matches.
“I’m very happy that he scored the goal,” Yallop said. “It can hopefully get him that confidence that he probably needs a little bit — especially goalscorers, they need to score. Hopefully, it’s the start of a good run by Chris.”
Wondolowski refutes the idea that any self-confidence has seeped away, even during the scoreless stretch. Peterson, for one, can understand why that is.
“He’s been banging goals left and right in training,” Peterson said. “Whatever the reason, maybe it hasn’t been seen in games, but he’s been sharp. I don’t think there’s anybody on this team that’s lost confidence in him. We know what he’s capable of, and we see it on a regular basis. I think he went on a tear in the last few games of last season, so yeah, we hope we can get that same production out of him.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes