SAN JOSE, Calif. — A year ago, Chris Wondolowski celebrated his Golden Boot victory by text message. The San Jose Earthquakes star had done everything he could, including netting a goal in the final regular-season match, but it wasn’t until the following day, when LA’s Edson Buddle – who finished one tally behind Wondolowski’s haul of 18 goals – came off the field that Wondolowski’s triumph was assured.
This time, if Wondolowski can repeat as Golden Boot champion, he’ll do it in front of more than 10,000 fans at a sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium as the Quakes host FC Dallas on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
“That’d be incredible,” Wondolowski said. “That’d be the dream come true. It’d be nice to celebrate it along with my teammates, who are obviously a huge factor in this. They’re the ones giving me these goals on platters.”
It’ll take some doing to put such a celebration in motion, as Wondolowski faces longer odds now than in 2010.
Where last season Wondolowski was tied with Buddle going into the finale, the defending champ enters the final weekend trailing D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario, 16-15. Because De Rosario holds the tiebreaker, leading Wondolowski 12-3 in assists, San Jose’s current leading man has to come up with at least a brace against FC Dallas to push past the former Quakes star – and that’s assuming De Rosario doesn’t produce any more goals during United’s last game against Kansas City, which kicks off a few hours earlier Saturday.
With nothing to play for in terms of positioning other than the possibility of passing Chivas USA for 14th overall, San Jose will once again try to rev up their offense, with Wondolowski as the focal point.
“We’re not going to come in here and sit back and try to get a 0-0 [result],” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “We’re trying to do what we’ve done for the last 10 weeks, which is attack.”
The Quakes will have to walk the fine line of trying to feed Wondolowski without making it counterproductive; if no one else is seen by Dallas’ defense as being a goal-scoring threat, there’s no reason not to collapse on Wondolowski in an attempt to bar all access.
“I think we do the same things that we do every game, every week,” San Jose midfielder Rafael Baca said. “We just [try to] put it in the right spot at the right time, and Wondo happens to be there all the time. It’s just a matter of serving the right ball.”
For Wondolowski, a baseball fan of some renown, it’s a matter of not swinging for the fences.
“You can’t. Anytime you start trying too hard, it’s like trying to hit a home run,” Wondolowski said. “You just have to let it happen. I really do believe if we play well as a team, there’ll be opportunities out there, and it’s on me to finish them.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes