There’s a quick Week 9 turnaround on Tuesday evening (7:30 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, Twitter), as Orlando City SC host the San Jose Earthquakes at Exploria Stadium before a dozen matchups unfold Wednesday.
Orlando can make it four wins in their last five games while looking to catch the New England Revolution atop the Eastern Conference standings, and San Jose are trying to shake a five-game winless streak. Purely from a results perspective, this rare cross-conference clash carries real significance when the whistle blows at Exploria Stadium.
But there’s also the potential window of seeing marquee American strikers at different stages of their careers. Daryl Dike could earn his first start upon returning from an extended loan to Championship side Barnsley, while MLS goal king Chris Wondolowski is coming off his first start of 2021 for San Jose. Dike, age 20, is on the rise. Wondolowski, age 38, is slowly winding down his legendary career.
That’s not to draw a straight line between Dike and Wondolowski, as they’re very different forwards. Dike, now in his second professional season, has a physical profile and final-third abilities that fuel speculation about an overseas transfer during the summer months. Wondolowski relies more on brains than speed or strength, seemingly always showing up in the right place at the right time unmarked even though defenders know very well that he owns a league-leading 168 career goals (and counting).
Dike, following his Barnsley spell and several weeks with the US men’s national team, subbed on in the 64th minute for Tesho Akindele in Orlando’s 3-2 win over Toronto FC last weekend. It was his first game back in MLS since the 2020 season, where he posted eight goals and four assists in 17 games (15 starts). That production level fueled the Barnsley loan and his subsequent nine goals in 19 games across all competitions.
In strong supply, reports have emerged about Dike drawing the interested eye of European clubs. Barnsley turned down exercising a purchase option on Dike’s loan deal, and The Orlando Sentinel's Julia Poe reported that figure stood at $20 million. Should Orlando still hold that pricepoint, Dike stands to become one of the league’s most expensive outgoing transfers.
Dike’s found international success, too, scoring his first USMNT goal in a 4-0 win over Costa Rica earlier this month. His first cap came in a 7-0 January Camp friendly win against Trinidad & Tobago, so everything’s come rather quickly for the Oklahoma native. He’s pushing for the No. 1 spot on the USMNT’s striker depth chart and figures to play a key role in World Cup qualifiers later this year.
Though there’s little telling how much longer Dike will be in MLS. And the same can be said for Wondolowski, who originally planned to retire after 2020 before announcing another go-around. He was a free agent at the time, with factors around the COVID-19 pandemic altering his plans.
Wondolowski already has two goals in eight games this year, a slight downturn in production that you’d expect of someone approaching his 40s. Then again, few around MLS would be surprised if he went on a scoring frenzy over the summer months and helped the Quakes snap out of their rut. He’s mainly coming off the bench at this stage of his career, and that role seems to fit his poacher’s instincts just fine.
Wondolowski has also taken to a mentoring role with teenage homegrown Cade Cowell, so his contributions extend beyond boxscore stats. His Golden Boot presented by Audi days are behind him, but he's impacting the Quakes in numerous ways.
Will Dike and Wondlowski produce the goods on Tuesday? We’ll definitely tune in to find out, knowing it could be among the final chances to see iconic American strikers at the opposite ends of their MLS careers. Consider it two potent goalscorers from two different generations.