He didn’t say anything, however, about the speed with which the inevitable would arrive.
With Wondolowski sitting on 144 career league goals – just one behind Donovan’s record-setting total – since Oct. 6, the chase has slowed to a crawl. After going scoreless in the San Jose Earthquakes’ first four games this season – all defeats – Wondolowski was benched Saturday by new coach Matias Almeyda in favor of Dutch import Danny Hoesen, who scored his first goal of 2019 as the Quakes pounded Portland, 3-0.
Is the pressure of chasing Donovan’s mark weighing on Wondolowski’s mind?
Not so, says the Quakes captain.
“I know what the record is,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I’ve wanted to score that goal as much as I’ve wanted to score the first goal and every goal in between. When I step on the field, again, I don’t play to try to score goals. I play to win games. My job is to score goals, though, and I try to do that. Obviously, I didn’t do that in the first four games and we didn’t win. So a lot of it has to do with not doing the right things. It’s not wearing down, it’s not extra pressure.”
Whatever the reason, Wondolowski is currently enduring his longest drought, in terms of cumulative scoreless minutes (547 and counting), since the middle of 2016. The circumstances are different, however; back then, Wondolowski was still so effective that then-US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought him to the Copa América Centenario, and in Dominic Kinnear, he had a club coach who gave him a long leash.
In 2019, Wondolowski is once again having to prove himself to a new boss – this time at an age (36) when most strikers are winding down their careers.
“It’s always a dogfight in the beginning [of a coach’s tenure],” Wondolowski said. “It was a dogfight last year [under Mikael Stahre]. I think that’s the great thing about this team, is that we’re deeper than we have been, in all positions. Danny Hoesen is one of the best No. 9s in this league.”
Almeyda didn’t indicate if the Hoesen-for-Wondolowski switch will continue this weekend when the Quakes face unbeaten Houston (Saturday, 3 pm ET | Univision, UDN, Twitter in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
“It’s difficult when we are not getting the results we want and we need to change players and positions, but the players know they are all important and I will use them all as the season goes on,” Almeyda told reporters Wednesday at his weekly press conference. “Chris will surely will his achieve his dream this year of becoming the league's all-time top scorer. I felt he had a lot of pressure on him and I wanted to let him rest and not let all that pressure fold him because we are a team and not just a single player. It was good for him.”
In the meantime, Wondolowski will keep chasing that top spot.
“I feel I can be successful coming off the bench, but at the same time, the competitive nature I have, I’m going to fight for every minute,” Wondolowski said. “That’s the thing that’s not given here. It doesn’t matter if you’re [15-year-old] Cade Cowell or myself, youngest guy or oldest guy, you’ve got to fight for every minute.”