“I could shout from the mountaintops right now,” he said, following theQuakes defeated Minnesota United on Decision Day presented by AT&T, their 3-2 victory coming on Marco Ureña’s stoppage-time goal that gave San Jose their first postseason berth 2005735029" tabindex="0">in five years.
Shout it out loud: The Quakes, despite a minus-21 goal differential that ranks second-worst among Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs participants, will be heading to Vancouver this week for a Knockout Round match thanks to that 93rd-minute goal, swept in off a pass from Wondolowski.
“This game was an epitome of the season for us, in the sense where we’ve had some ultimate highs and some lows where you’re reeling and gut-checked,” Wondolowski said. “It’s a [time to] look in the mirror and see what you’re made of. And our guys showed up.”
The goal provided a shocking finish that reverberated from Avaya Stadium all the way to Frisco, Texas, where FC Dallas fans undoubtedly watched in horror as their club was bumped from the sixth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff field.
San Jose coach Chris Leitch had made Ureña his last throw of the dice in the 88th minute, bringing him on in place of right back Kofi Sarkodie. The Costa Rican international, no stranger to big goals for his national side, has been plagued by inconsistent finishing in his first season with the Quakes but was able to send home Wondolowski’s delivery when it mattered most.
“I’ve played a lot of really important games in my life, games like today are the games I like to be part of,” Ureña said. “In those important moments, when all the players want to score, God chooses me, I always say. For my national team, I have a lot of goals like this. It’s good to be part of the Quakes and do that for them, because that’s why they bring me here.”
Knowing a victory would see them through regardless of what happened with their pursuers from Dallas and Real Salt Lake, San Jose seemed to be in control on a couple of occasions. The hosts took an early lead at the quarter hour through Danny Hoesen’s cool between-the-wickets finish on Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, the Dutch forward sprung by a botched play from Minnesota’s center-back tandem of Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo.
Wondolowski put San Jose back in front early in the second half, ghosting into back-post space to tap home Hoesen’s low cross in the 55th minute. Minnesota responded with a counterpunch -- and a potentially devastating one -- as Calvo’s perfectly placed header from a corner kick looped over helpless San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell, ricocheted off the head of San Jose center back Florian Jungwirth and finally nicked the underside of the crossbar before settling in the net.
Yet instead of crumbling, as San Jose have done on multiple occasions this season – the Quakes suffered six different losses of at least three goals since July 19 – they recovered. Tarbell hoofed a free kick into the attacking third, Victor Bernardez brought it down with a chest trap and headed it forward to Quincy Amarikwa, whose powerful shot was parried across the face of goal by Shuttleworth.
That left the ball at the feet of Wondolowski, who delivered Ureña the opportunity to score the most important Quakes goal since the Supporters’ Shield salad days of 2012. It was a remarkable display of restraint on the part of Wondolowski, who had moved into a tie for second place on the MLS all-time scoring list with his earlier goal, matching the 134-goal output of Jeff Cunningham.
“We have to say something about Wondo: In that situation, to pass the ball, I’ve never seen that in my life,” Jungwirth said. “That was amazing. He was so calm, the pass to Marco. Usually, a guy would try to hit it, but with his whole experience, he passed to Marco and he scored a goal. The rest is history.”
Wondolowski’s explanation was that the ball was spinning too much after Shuttleworth’s save to unleash a shot. Not that he lacked for temptation.
“Legitimately, it was one of the hardest things to do in my life,” Wondolowski said of his critical pass. “It kind of spun on me, and I couldn’t get my feet right. I think if I get my feet right, I’m blasting that.”