SAN JOSE, Calif. – When friends and family in Germany check out Florian Jungwirth’s matches with the San Jose Earthquakes, it’s sometimes hard for them to reconcile the defensive-minded midfielder and defender they’ve known for years with the player who’s needed just 10 games to become a surprisingly key cog in the Quakes attack.
After all, in more than 200 matches scattered across four different levels of German soccer over 10 seasons, the 28-year-old was credited with just three goals. So the fact that Jungwirth has a pair of goals – including a game-winner last weekend at Minnesota – and added two assists Saturday in a 3-0 victory over Portland are not quite what they expected from the former Darmstadt player.
“My wife, she couldn’t believe that, what I’m doing,” Jungwirth said after setting up both halves of Chris Wondolowski’s brace against the Timbers. “She said, ‘In Germany, you never score, you never get an assist.’ And now, another continent, another style of play. It’s a great feeling, for me and for the whole team.”
Jungwirth has been forced to deputize at center back after the loss of Harold Cummings and Marvell Wynne to long-term surgery rehab, but that didn’t stop him from finding Wondolowski with passes to help unlock San Jose’s second and third goals against the Timbers.
“We knew coming here that he could play for us,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said. “It was just a matter of how he was going to fit in with the group – and he’s one of the more happy, colorful characters you’ll find in a locker room. I think he enjoys his time so far here in MLS and in San Jose. We always say, after watching him, he does all the basics very well. So if he can add a pass like that to his game, and that helps us out, then that’s a big bonus.”
In both instances Saturday, Jungwirth helped spring Wondolowski, who is now has four goals and five assists this season — a combined total that's tied for second in the league, behind only NYCFC's David Villa.
“It’s such a luxury to have,” Wondolowski said. “Flo has done so well and is so smart reading the game and such a great center back, but also a wonderful passer of the ball. Both assists were just great balls and his passes kind of passed me open.”
Wondolowski’s first scoring sequence saw Jungwirth thread a relatively short pass from the edge of the penalty area to leave Portland with no way to stop the Quakes captain from deadening the ball with his first touch, then using a second to lash it past goalkeeper Jeff Attinella from 17 yards out.
For the next goal, Jungwirth delivered a 25-yard pass that cut out three Timbers defenders, allowing Wondolowski to run onto the ball, clipping a first-timed shot around Attinella and just inside the far post.
“We practice those kind of balls so often at training, so I know – for example, if Marco [Ureña] is going on the right side and deep, I know in the middle is a striker,” Jungwirth said. “And we do that so often, it’s not random that we score a goal like this.”
At the other end, Jungwirth helped the Quakes record their second consecutive shutout following their clean sheet in Minnesota. It’s the first time San Jose has done that since August 2015, when they had four straight shutouts.
“As it’s getting late into the game, you say, ‘Let’s be more than greedy, and get the shutout,’ but it’s going to take a little more because they’re pressing guys forward,” Kinnear said. “I thought we were good with our desperate defending. … Anytime you get a shutout, you know you have a good chance to get something out of the game, so I’m really happy for that.”