SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When Chris Wondolowski twice hit the same post with the same result Sunday against the LA Galaxy — the ball ricocheting away from net — it seemed as if the San Jose Earthquakes star’s chance to chase down the MLS all-time single-season scoring record was slipping away.
Yet as the Quakes recovered from a first half spent absorbing buckets of pressure from the Galaxy, San Jose coach Frank Yallop knew that wasn’t the case.
“I thought we started to play better [in the second half], and I thought we started to create some better chances for Chris,” Yallop said. “I thought he was going to score once he started getting his chances and hitting the post — you know that Chris is going to get a chance later on in the game, for sure.”
That chance came in the 73rd minute, when Wondolowski dived through a teeming mass of bodies to intersect perfectly with a near-post corner kick from Marvin Chávez. LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders had no chance to prevent what would become Wondolowski’s league-leading 26th goal — a total that ties the face of San Jose for second-best all-time in MLS history, one behind record-holder Roy Lassiter’s mark.
“You’ve just got to keep trying to plug away,” said Wondolowski, who has eight goals in his last six matches. "You sure wish those would go off the post and in, but it’s a funny game. I probably should have put it on goal instead of hit the frame.”
Wondolowski was credited with six shots on the night. His left-footed try from 25 yards off a knock-down header from Steven Lenhart pinged the post in the 49th minute, as did his open back-side header on a Chávez corner kick seconds later. Wondolowski was stopped by Saunders on a breakaway in the 65th, and had another potential solo run on net evaporate when the ball got caught in his feet.
Wondolowski will undoubtedly be the center of attention next weekend in Portland when the Earthquakes finish the regular season against a Timbers team that, at 8-16-9, has little incentive except for trying to avoid being the footnote to an MLS trivia question.
Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose, meanwhile, have an eight-game unbeaten streak they want to carry into the postseason.
“In Portland, we’re just going to go out and try to win,” Wondolowski said. “When we win, we create a lot of opportunities, and I know if I find a couple of chances, it’ll be on me to score.”
Wondolowski put up a brace the last time he faced Portland, coming off the bench to salvage a 2-2 tie at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sept. 19. But he’s scoreless in two league trips to JELD-WEN Field.
“I think he’s going to do it,” Lenhart said. “He’s hungry and he’s a fighter.”
He won’t lack for chances.
“Of course,” Lenhart said with a laugh when asked if the Quakes will feed Wondo additional passes in Portland. “We were doing that tonight.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.