SAN JOSE, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski has heard all the talk about his form of late, a seven-match stretch of MLS play with only one penalty-kick goal to show for it.
It’s just that the league’s leading scorer disagrees with what, exactly, it signifies.
“Am I in a slump?” Wondolowski said to MLSsoccer.com, batting back a reporter’s question. “We’ve won three of our last four games. It’s hard to be in a slump when you’re winning.”
Indeed, San Jose have retained pole position in the Supporters’ Shield standings without seeing what has been a staple for Wondolowski the last two years: a late-season scoring surge. In 2010, Wondolowski stole the Golden Boot off the foot of LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle with 10 goals in San Jose’s final eight matches. Last year, he had eight goals in the last nine games to tie Dwayne De Rosario atop the MLS charts.
Wondolowski’s 18 goals still lead the league by four – over New York’s Kenny Cooper and Real Salt Lake’s Álvaro Saborío – and he showed Thursday that he retains his touch, stealing onto a weak back pass and slotting the ball home in the 92nd minute for a 1-0 win against Mexican side San Luis FC in an international exhibition.
“To be honest, I feel pretty confident in my game right now, but it’s always good to see the ball hit the back of the net when it means something,” Wondolowski told reporters after the match. “I really would like it to be [league goal No.] 19, but it is what it is, and I’ll take it.”
Wondolowski was only available to face San Luis because he was left off of the 24-man roster for the US national team for the Americans’ home-and-home qualifiers with Jamaica on Friday (in Kingston) and Tuesday (in Columbus, Ohio).
“Chris hasn’t scored for us in a while, and maybe that comes into it,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com of US coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision. “But as we know from the history of Chris, he’s going to get going.”
For his part, Wondolowski seems a bit chagrined by the notion that the absence of goals equals an absence of good work. Although he acknowledges that kind of reductive criticism is part and parcel of being the face of a franchise.
“That’s part of the territory,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “One thing that I find interesting is that I can have a bad game and score, and they’ll say I had a good game. If I don’t score, I’ve had a bad game. It’s just one of those things. I’d like to think I have other things I can do, besides score, to contribute to the team. But I know that’s part of my job. I have to do it. And I’ve had chances in the last few games and I haven’t put them away.”
Now, Quakes fans will eagerly await to see if those chances start to fall on Sept. 15 when San Jose travel to face Chivas USA – a team the Quakes whipped 4-0 last weekend.
“We’ll find out in nine days if I’m over the hump, or I’m still behind the hump or under the hump,” Wondolowski said. “If we’re still winning, I’m a happy guy.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.