By coolly slotting his 18th-minute rebound strike Saturday against the Colorado Rapids, Chris Wondolowski moved into a tie with Landon Donovan for second place on the San Jose Earthquakes’ all-time scoring list with 32 goals apiece.
The celebration was muted, however, by the fact that Wondolowski felt like he should have gone right past Donovan in one fell swoop -- and that the fact he was unable to do so contributed to the Quakes’ failing to close out what would have been a glorious road victory.
Instead, Colorado got a 71st-minute tally from Drew Moor and a 1-1 draw, extending the Quakes’ winless streak to three straight matches and leaving them eight points out of playoff position with only four matches remaining.
“Right now it’s a little bit bittersweet,” Wondolowski said. “I really wish I could have gotten another one.”
Wondolowski and the Quakes as a whole didn’t lack for chances in the first hour-plus of the match. Despite playing for the third time in eight days with only minimal lineup changes -- and doing so at mile-high altitude -- San Jose neutralized Colorado’s speed up front and dominated the 2010 MLS champions for long stretches.
“I think that the result was probably fair in the end, but I felt for a good 55 or 60 minutes, we should have scored more than one goal,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “The game hinged on our inability to score the second goal.”
No one was hit harder by his miss than Wondolowski, of whom so much is asked by San Jose. Without a true target forward, the Quakes have kept their offense afloat behind the unlikely pairing of Wondolowski and midfielder Khari Stephenson, playing out of his comfort zone up top.
One or the other has scored in each of San Jose’s last five matches, a stretch that includes the Quakes’ only win since mid-June.
Saturday, the pair clicked again; Wondolowski got San Jose on the scoreboard by splitting Colorado’s center backs and jumping on a loose rebound left when Stephenson uncorked a skipping shot from 40 yards out that Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens couldn’t punch safely away.
“I think it’s a great achievement,” said Quakes defender Steven Beitashour, a San Jose native. “(I was) watching (Donovan) the whole time, now I’m watching Wondo tie him and surpass him.”
Did he think Wondolowski was going to pass Donovan tonight?
“I was hoping so,” Beitashour said.
Wondolowski was as well, and the 2010 Golden Boot winner used a terrifically timed run to smash open Colorado’s offside trap in the 36th minute. Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura kept Wondolowski onside and Simon Dawkins delivered a great looping pass to put him one-on-one against Pickens.
Wondolowski trapped the ball, waited for a bounce and tried to go near post. Pickens outwaited his foe and blocked the shot off his chest.
“Matt Pickens did a good job,” Wondolowski said. “I hit a pretty bad shot and he made a pretty big save. I had it right where I wanted it. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably wish I would have gone back post.”
Wondolowski was not alone in being unable to put the Quakes safely ahead. Dawkins’ first-half stoppage-time blast from the top of the box was deflected by Kimura, who looked like he might have done most of that blocking with his arm.
Dawkins had another attempt parried by Pickens in the 59th minute, and Stephenson rolled a shot across the goalmouth three minutes later, only to watch it graze the far post on its way across the end line.
It the second time in this compressed three-game stretch where San Jose took an early lead and failed to capitalize with a victory. San Jose’s record when scoring first slipped to 5-3-4 this year, one spot short of dead last in MLS.
“Another night they would go in,” Yallop said, before amending his statement. “Or another season, I would say.”