SANTA CLARA, Calif. – With 18 goals this season, San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski sits atop the league table. Fellow San Jose forwards Alan Gordon (11 goals) and Steven Lenhart (eight), meanwhile, have each hit for career highs.
Nevertheless, Quakes attacker Simon Dawkins isn’t giving up the chase.
“We all have to chip in with scoring goals,” Dawkins said. “[Wondolowski, Gordon and Lenhart] have done a wonderful job this season, but as an attacking player, you look at them and say, ‘I want to catch them.’ It’s a little competition between us all. It’s healthy. It’s good for the team. And that’s why we’re doing so well right now, because we have that competitive edge about us.”
With eight matches left, Wondolowski seems safely out of Dawkins’ grasp, but the 24-year-old could still give Gordon and Lenhart a run after matching Gordon’s brace in San Jose’s 4-1 victory against Colorado on Saturday.
HIGHLIGHTS: SJ vs COL
Dawkins’ pair of goals – a sharply cut ball against the grain of his momentum in the 11th minute, followed by a scorching first-time strike on Sam Cronin’s bouncing pass in the 68th – put him on six for the year. That ties his mark from last season, when he debuted in MLS, but he’s needed 321 fewer minutes to reach that level in 2012.
“I’ve said all along he could be one of the better players in the league,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “Just with his feet and his vision – and now, he’s adding to that with goals and assists. And what I like about him is the really down-to-earth character as well. He comes to work every day with a smile on his face and it shows in the way he plays.”
Dawkins was an early sensation last year before needing surgery to fix compartment syndrome in his calves. As a starter in the Quakes’ final nine matches, he contributed two goals, an assist and 14 drawn fouls in San Jose’s 3-2-4 finish to an otherwise dreadful season.
“You could obviously see his quality last season, but he was getting used to a new country, new league, new players,” Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin said. “He’s one of the best attacking, wide midfielders in the league. He’s so good on the ball, breaking guys down one on one, and he’s got a good long-distance shot, which he proved tonight. He’s a really multifaceted player, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”
The Quakes played a waiting game with club partner Tottenham Hotspur over Dawkins’ services early this year. The English giants put him on offer to European clubs, but no agreement was reached, so he came back to San Jose for a second straight season on loan.
The tardiness of Dawkins’ arrival meant he opened the season behind Shea Salinas on the depth chart at left wing. But after Salinas suffered a broken collarbone, Dawkins has taken hold of the spot and not let go, starting 15 of San Jose’s last 20 matches and only seeing the bench when a sprained shoulder forced him there.
“When you start playing 90 minutes every single week, you start to get physically stronger and you can start doing what you want to do for 90 minutes,” Dawkins said. “I think that’s happening right now, and it’s great to play with the players I’m playing with. They’re helping me, too.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.