SAN JOSE, Calif. – In barely more than two years since rejoining his first MLS team, Chris Wondolowski has methodically hunted down the San Jose Earthquakes’ all-time leading scorers.
Eric Wynalda, Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario were all left in the rear-view mirror long ago. Last week, Landon Donovan became the latest victim. With a 2010 Golden Boot award in hand and 12 more goals this season – including four in his last six matches – Wondolowski has already established himself as one of the most prolific scorers in San Jose history.
To be the considered greatest, however, Wondolowski has to unseat Ronald Cerritos. And he’s barely halfway to that mark.
Cerritos, one of only two players inducted into the Earthquakes Hall of Fame, sits high atop the team’s scoring chart at 61 career goals in 148 appearances, most of them from 1997 to 2001.
Wondolowski smashed Cerritos’ single-season Quakes scoring mark last year, tallying 18 total to best Cerritos’ 15-goal output in 1999. Now, with a dozen goals in hand and an outside shot at snagging a second straight Golden Boot, Wondolowski has to be taken seriously as a threat to Cerritos’ supremacy.
“It’s a goal,” said Wondolowski, who is expected to play in San Jose’s final three matches – including Saturday at New England (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) – even after the Quakes’ playoff elimination. “I think it’s realistic. I hope it’s realistic. I know it’s out there. ... But it’s definitely going to take multiple years to catch him.”
Wondolowski needs to continue to run he’s been on lately if he’s going to have a chance of catching De Rosario and Thierry Henry, who share the MLS league lead with 14 goals. With key Revs defender A.J. Soares lost to ankle surgery and goalkeeper Matt Reis out due to a strained right hamstring, Wondo should have his share of scoring opportunities against New England.
“He’s held up his part of the bargain: ‘I will score goals if you give me chances,’” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “And to be honest, he could have scored 20 goals this year. I mean, we’ve all sat and watched [near-misses] and gone, ‘Ooof.’ He could have had the same tally. But he’s stuck with it. He had a bit of a dry patch in the middle of the season and then he started to come good again.”
To beat Cerritos, Wondolowski obviously must stay in San Jose, but that shouldn’t be a problem; the team negotiated a new, four-year deal with the Bay Area native last winter in the wake of his breakout season, so he’s tied to the Quakes through 2014.
“[We] are not looking to move him at all, so hopefully he can get that record,” Yallop said. “He’s on a pretty good strike rate right now. Even in a season that’s not had a ton of goals scored, he’s got a lot of them again.”
Regardless of what happens this month, though, Wondolowski has shown that his 2010 numbers were not a fluke.
“I think it’s pretty important just to prove [it] to coaches, teammates, even myself,” Wondolowski said. “I mean, I know I’m very capable of it in my mind, but if you don’t go out and do it, then questions start to linger and you don’t know if it was just an aberration.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.