Ronald Cerritos’ reign as the San Jose Earthquakes’ all-time leading scorer came to end as abrupt as it was inevitable.
With Chris Wondolowski pounding home bushels of goals for a third consecutive season, it was a foregone conclusion that the Bay Area native would eventually pass Cerritos — who finalized his 61-goal franchise total as a teammate of Wondolowski’s on the 2005 Quakes.
Yet the end came more quickly than anyone could have expected, when Wondolowski hammered home his second hat trick of 2012 to help San Jose beat Colorado 4-1.
“It means a lot,” Wondolowski said of passing Cerritos, who had been the franchise’s all-time leader from 1998. “I grew up a Quakes fan, a Clash fan and also a Ronald Cerritos fan. I remember going to games and seeing him score some sublime goals.”
GOAL: Wondo finishes off his hat trick
Current fans likely are saying the same thing about Wondolowski, who chested home a Rafael Baca cross in the 11th minute, saw his deflected shot find the net in the 51st and finally made a nifty drag-and-turn to free himself inside Colorado’s box in the 83rd.
It was the 29-year-old’s sixth multi-goal match of the season, and it capped an achievement that Wondolowski didn’t think would happen in 2012.
“It seemed like it was a ways away,” Wondolowski said of Cerritos’ mark. “It’s such a long season, anything can happen. You go through ups and downs. It’s all you can try to do is plug away, try to get as many [goals] as you can, try to get as many wins as you can.”
The runaway Golden Boot leader now has 25 on the year, putting him fourth on the MLS all-time single-season scoring list, one back of Stern John (Columbus, 1998) and Mamadou Diallo (Tampa Bay, 2000) and two behind the record holder of 16 years, Roy Lassiter.
After taking a break last weekend against FC Dallas, Wondolowski is on an eight-goals-in-five-matches run, providing another patented late-season spree like the ones that marked his 2010 (10 goals in the last eight matches) and 2011 (eight goals in the last nine games) campaigns.
“It’s a great feat,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “Chris has been doing it for three years. It’s a great honor to pass a goal-scoring legend in San Jose. I think Wondo’s on a pretty good tear right now.”
Even if the Quakes wrap up their pursuit of the Supporters’ Shield early — San Jose lead Sporting Kansas City by six points, pending SKC’s result Sunday, with two matches left for both teams after this weekend — Wondolowski’s personal pursuit will draw the spotlight.
“It’s been surreal, to be honest,” Wondolowski said. “The names I see up there are unbelievable. Roy Lassiter and guys like that, those guys are absolute legends. It’s a true honor. It’s something that I do take a lot of pride in, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @quakesbeat