Danny Hoesen charging for MLS Golden Boot in difficult Earthquakes season

Danny Hoesen - San Jose Earthquakes - running - close-up

SAN JOSE, Calif. – If Chris Wondolowski is destined to be unseated as the San Jose Earthquakes’ leading scorer, he can at least take credit for seeing it coming.

Wondolowski, who has led San Jose in goals for each of the last eight seasons, spent this year's preseason talking up teammate Danny Hoesen as a potential MLS Golden Boot challenger, a fact which has come to pass. The 27-year-old Dutchman has notched 10 goals thus far, putting him in a tie for third place on the MLS leaderboard, just behind Bradley Wright-Phillips (on 11) and current front-runner Josef Martinez (14).

Hoesen, riding a wave of eight goals in his last 10 matches, will have a chance to close the gap on Saturday night against the LA Galaxy in this year’s edition of the mid-summer California Clasico at Stanford Stadium (10 pm ET | UniMás - Full TV & Streaming Info).

“This guy’s amazing, especially in the box,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com this week. “His finishing is just lethal, has a great shot with both feet. It’s not really surprising.”

This was exactly the type of production the Quakes were looking for when they arranged for a permanent transfer of Hoesen after a debut MLS season on loan in which he provided five goals and five assists while splitting his time on the wing, rather than as an out-and-out striker. New coach Mikael Stahre has used Hoesen as a true No. 9, making him one of just five San Jose players to start all 16 games to this point and freeing him up to score in a variety of ways. Wondolowski is second on the team with four goals.

“It’s funny, I’ve had seasons where I’ve played much better than this but didn’t get the goals or the assists, and this year, I have a feeling that when I get near the goal I can be dangerous and I feel the confidence to score,” Hoesen told MLSsoccer.com. “if you’re scoring goals and you have the confidence, it looks like the goal is bigger and you know exactly what you’re going to do. And then times when you don’t score, you don’t even see a little gap to put it in.

“It’s nice, this feeling, and I hope I can continue.”

In addition to the double-digit goals total, Hoesen has notched four assists, making him just one of three MLS players with a combined 14 goals and assists in 2018 – Wright-Phillips and Ignacio Piatti being the others. As with Piatti’s Montreal Impact, Hoesen is doing his work for a team that sits outside playoff position – something that makes it harder to fully celebrate his personal successes.

“I’m just trying to do my job and score goals and focus on that and in some way try to help the team to get a result,” Hoesen said. “Obviously, it’s a team sport and I’m not going to be like, ‘I’m doing very well and I don’t care about the team.’ That’s definitely not the case.”

Stahre came in not knowing what to necessarily expect from Hoesen, who bounced around in Europe after early stops at Fulham and Ajax.

“He came in really fit this season. That helped,” Stahre told MLSsoccer.com. “He had a really good preseason and then he continued. He’s not just a goalscorer, he’s a good player and also, he’ll work really hard for the team. So for me, he has excellent qualities. He’s a good guy, really professional, and also puts in maximum effort for the team, every single week and every single training session. … He’s not just an individual player, he’s a team player.”

Hoesen and Wright-Phillips have one disadvantage in terms of the Golden Boot race – namely, that they have zero penalty-kick goals to their name while Martinez has cashed in four of five attempts for Atlanta.

Hoesen was actually on the pitch for both of San Jose’s PKs, which came in the same game, a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on May 12; Magnus Eriksson took the opener after drawing a first-minute foul inside the box, and Wondolowski netted the second-half capper after coming on as a substitute. (Hoesen, meanwhile, scored the Quakes’ only goal from the run of play in that game, which represents their last victory.)

So, if the Golden Boot chase continues, will Hoesen start heading to the spot?

“Right now, I’m taking them, but if it’s for a Golden Boot, I would definitely let him take them,” Wondolowski said.