SANTA CLARA, Calif. – With three renegotiated contracts and wage hikes in as many offseasons, Chris Wondolowski has finally reached the point of becoming just the second Designated Player in San Jose Earthquakes history.
The kicker? Wondolowski's teammates still think he is underpaid.
“I don’t feel too sorry for him, but if you look at his production compared to some of the high-priced guys around the league, you could say that he deserves a lot more,” San Jose forward Alan Gordon said Tuesday, just after the team confirmed Wondolowski’s new deal. “But that’s probably the great thing about Chris, is that he doesn’t need too much. He doesn’t want too much. He’s happy being here, being a part of this team. He’s not going and chasing money.”
Indeed, to some extent the money chased Wondolowski, rather than vice-versa. Head coach Frank Yallop said reopening the deal was the right thing to do – even though the team was under no obligation to undertake talks – after Wondolowski tied the MLS single-season scoring record with 27 goals last year.
“If you deserve to get paid more, you should [get paid] more,” Yallop said. “He deserves it. In our league, you see all the designated players getting paid – and I’m not sure there’s any [player] more deserving than Chris to get paid and be a DP.”
Could Wondolowski’s deal represent the start of a trend: MLS-groomed, American-born players moving into DP roles around the league?
“I definitely hope so ... because I feel that those are the players that are making it and that are proving themselves,” Wondolowski told reporters via a conference call. “Sometimes, it’s been a bit quick to give foreign players DP money that aren’t quite accustomed to the league or to the travel or heat or whatever it might be, and it doesn’t quite work out. So if it can help the league to reward players that have been able to prove themselves in this league, it’s best for both sides.”
For his part, Wondolowski – a Bay Area native – put security over short-term dollars. He said that three years of the four-year contract are guaranteed and if he hits certain statistical milestones, the final season could be as well.
“I obviously would love to have as much [money] as I could, but I’m also a realist,” Wondolowski said. “I looked at the situation, knew the situation, so I opted to lean towards the guaranteed years and things of that nature, rather than trying to go all out for one year and get as much as I can.”
That is sure to endear him even more to the rest of the Quakes. Even though Wondolowski’s cap hit is limited by the DP rules, he could have demanded more money on top of that – and every dollar paid in that instance would be another one that San Jose couldn’t spend elsewhere on their roster.
“It leaves room to pay some of our guys,” Gordon said of Wondolowski’s choice. “That’s kind of a Tom Brady thing, the same type of deal: The team is more than a paycheck.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.