SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski is chasing the MLS single-season scoring record. He’s a prohibitive favorite to win a second Golden Boot in three seasons. He’s tied Raúl Díaz Arce for the most regular-season goals in a three-year span.
So, is there anything left for Wondolowski to do in the only professional league he’s ever known?
In the short term, the answer is obvious. Wondolowski and San Jose are gunning for what would be the franchise’s first Supporters’ Shield-MLS Cup double. The Quakes’ previous incarnation – now better-known as the Houston Dynamo – took Cups in 2001 and ’03 and the Shield in '05.
“The MLS Cup, that’s what you play for,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “You don’t play to be player of the week. You don’t play for stats. You play for championships.”
GOAL: Wondo scores No. 22 vs. Seattle
After the playoffs end, though, it’s going to be an open question – and one that will undoubtedly be asked during the winter, prompted by reports such as the one last week that suggested Bundesliga side Hannover 96 have an interest in pursuing Wondolowski.
Wondolowski, who is bound to the Quakes through 2016 after signing a revamped contract in February, is too focused on the pursuit of the Cup to worry about the future – especially since he can’t control it.
“I feel I can continue to grow as a player here,” Wondolowski said. “If the opportunity comes, I’ll definitely look at it from all angles and see. I’d like to do that if I can. That being said, I’m under contract – and as a lot of guys have found out in this league, it’s tough to get transfers and to go overseas.”
Quakes coach Frank Yallop points to Wondolowski’s increasing trend line, scoring-wise, as a sign that there still is growth to be had for the 29-year-old in MLS.
“He’s gradually got better and better,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “What’s next for him? It’s continue what he’s doing. It’s not a fluke. It’s not just one season. He’s had 18, 16 and 22 goals in three years. Obviously, that’s very good.”
Adding a layer of intrigue is Wondolowski’s tenure with the US national team. Having forced his way into contention during the Bob Bradley era through his domestic goal-scoring exploits, Wondolowski has been on the bubble of Jurgen Klinsmann’s rosters. With Klinsmann pushing American players to face the highest level of competition they can find, does Wondolowski need to climb another mountain to become a national team regular?
Yallop doesn’t think that’s necessarily the case.
“He’s comfortable here and he plays well here,” Yallop said. “He’s proven that he can score goals in this league well.”
For his part, Wondolowski isn’t ruling anything else out.
“I’m happy with where I am right now, but I’m always open ears to things,” Wondolowski said. “And I definitely want to progress at the national level. That’s absolutely a huge thing for me. I want to be there [at the World Cup] in 2014.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.