As Sporting Kansas City's players celebrated around him after advancing in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs following a penalty-kick shootout at Children’s Mercy Park, Chris Wondolowski’s gaze turned skyward. The MLS all-time scoring leader let out an agonizing scream as all the emotions of a particularly emotional 2020 season flooded in at once.
The 37-year-old, whose 97th-minute equalizer was just the second postseason goal of his storied career, also thought about how rare these moments have been while with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I was thinking that in the last 12 years I've made the playoffs four times, and you've got to cherish these opportunities,” Wondolowski said in a video conference call with reporters following the finale of a rollercoaster playoff game. “I know some teams it's a given for them. They know each year they’re going to be competing and it’s how many playoff games they’re going to win. I'm completely jealous of that.”
Wondolowski described the season as a success — the continued growth under Matias Almeyda’s system which culminated in the first playoff appearance since 2017 and only the second since 2012.
Wondolowski has pivoted from planning on retirement at year’s end to wanting to continue on, though there are some uncertainties there as well given his expiring contract.
That was part of a quick conversation he had with Sporting KC boss Peter Vermes at the match’s conclusion, with Vermes revealing in an on-air interview Wondolowski will be back for another year.
Peter Vermes reveals discussion with Chris Wondolowski on his future
16x9_Vermes postgame on Wondo_20201122
“I did talk to Peter, he asked if I was done. I don’t think I’m done,” Wondolowski said. “I love it, I can't get enough of it, it's in my blood and so I want to continue to play. I don't have anything in line yet, I haven’t discussed any numbers, and I definitely never want to be a burden on the Quakes. but also want to make sure [I] see all the options, see what's out there.
“I think that the Quakes are doing some amazing things and I want to make sure the pieces can be moved to continue to make this team grow and continue to be better. That's my long-winded story.”
Wondolowski said he’s not had conversations yet with Quakes GM Jesse Fioranelli, although he assures “it’s not a numbers game, it’s not a minutes thing.”
Watch: Chris Wondolowski's dramatic late equalizer against Sporting KC
GOAL: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes - 97th minute
Despite being a club legend, Wondolowski said he doesn’t need a starring role next year. But he does need an assurance of how the Quakes plan on being annual contenders. So these playoff trips aren’t few and far between.
“To be honest, I want to see how we want to win or what we're going to do to become a contender every single year,” he said. “I think that's the main question that I have.”
Perhaps part of that question now is Almeyda’s future with the club. In his post-match press conference, the Argentine coach said he’s going to take some time to assess his future as well.
“I need to take three, four days off to see where I want to go, know what I want to do with my future,” he said.
Wondolowski said he can’t speak for Almeyda’s situation, although “he's made it seem that he's all in and is going to continue progressing this team and making it the standard that it can and should be.”
Wondolowski knows retirement will come at some point and it is going to “hit me like a ton of bricks.”
But he also knows he has no plans to hang up his boots anytime soon.
“You never know what's going to happen so when you're old, like I am, that question’s inevitable,” Wondolowski said. “You always ask when the end is coming or what you want to do after and it's one of those questions where I don't know how to answer it because I want to keep playing and I will always want to keep playing when I can help the team.”