SAN JOSE, Calif. – During three years spent dominating defenses in MLS, San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski has never wavered in his modest way of answering questions regarding his scoring prowess.
So it was up to Alan Gordon to pump up the volume Thursday with just a touch of swag, interrupting Wondolowski’s attempt to deflect yet another query regarding his pursuit of Roy Lassiter’s MLS single-season scoring mark.
“He’s gonna do it,” Gordon said over Wondolowski’s shoulder. “He’s gonna do it, alright?”
If only it were that easy.
Wondolowski sits on 26 goals, one behind Lassiter’s record, as the Quakes close out their regular season on Saturday in Portland (6:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). He'll not only face the weight of history, but a Timbers side looking to build on its first road win of the season as a capstone to the Gavin Wilkinson coaching era.
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“Just go out there, try to play to the best of our ability, and hopefully there’ll be some chances out there,” Wondolowski said of his plans. “All I know is I’m going to try to get open as best as possible, and hopefully we can go out there – it’s our last game before the playoffs, so we want to go out there and play to the best of our ability.”
There’s no reason the twin aims of a Quakes victory – which would extend their unbeaten streak to nine consecutive matches – and a Wondolowski brace can’t coexist. After all, Wondolowski has scored at least one goal in 13 of the 18 San Jose victories he’s played in this year.
“We have the best offense in the league and if we keep doing what we’re doing, he’s going to get his goals, for sure,” Quakes defender Justin Morrow said.
“We want to get it for Wondo,” Gordon said. “I’m excited for it. That’s what it’s all about. We’re going to go into Portland and just play normally. I don’t think that anybody should look at it any different. We’ll go into it like a normal game, like we want to win, and if we do that, Wondo will get his goals.”
Coach Frank Yallop said that Wondolowski, as has been the case for years, will take any San Jose penalty kick. Yallop also mentioned that Wondolowski might get a crack at free kicks late in the game, which would be a departure from the norm; Marvin Chavez is usually the go-to choice on a dead ball, and he, Victor Bernardez and Ramiro Corrales have all scored directly with free kicks this season.
In each of the past two years, the Quakes have spent their regular-season finale trying to feed Wondolowski as he chased the league’s Golden Boot award.
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Wondolowski had seven shots against FC Dallas last year and converted from the penalty spot to finish tied with D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario on 16 goals. Kansas City – then known as the Wizards – held Wondolowski to three shots in the 2010 finale, but he put one past Eric Kronberg to pip Edson Buddle of the LA Galaxy, 18-17.
Now, with the Golden Boot long sewn up, Wondolowski is playing for even bigger stakes.
“It’s up to the team,” Yallop said. “I’m not saying anything to them. It’s up to them to sort them out, what they want to do.”
Said Morrow: “We want to go into the playoffs on a really good note, and I think getting Wondo what he deserves would be a great start.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.