SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When Chris Wondolowski scored the 100th regular-season goal of his MLS career, there was no ceremony, no special celebration. He simply picked the ball out of the net and ran back to the center circle, eager to start the game again.
“I was ready to go,” Wondolowski said. “I wanted to get the victory, especially being up a man for so long.”
Wondolowski will have to live with his historic goal, from the penalty spot in the 68th minute, being merely an equalizer in a 1-1 draw Sunday evening at Levi’s Stadium against a 10-man Orlando City SC side, who took a 1-0 lead on a Kaka penalty kick just four minutes prior. The result seemed to matter more to Wondolowski than any individual accomplishment.
“It’s good to come back and get a point, but it’s a bit frustrating,” he said. “I’m very grateful, I know the historic value [of the goal], but it’s one of those things that will slowly sink in; it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear tried help his star player understand what he had accomplished.
“Talking to Chris after the game, he was a little disappointed in the result, and I said, ‘Take a step back, and realize what you’ve done.’” Kinnear said. “It’s an incredible achievement, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. It’s not the end of his story, but it’s a great accomplishment for a person who has overcome a lot.
“And done a lot of it on his own,” Kinnear added. “The guy takes the practice field every day and wants to do one thing; he wants to play and score. His improvement over the years has been a great progression.”
The early years of Wondolowski’s career gave little indication to the heights he would later achieve. Five years into his MLS career, the unheralded forward out of Chico State had scored all of four goals in limited playing time and was traded by Kinnear from Houston to San Jose.
“The first year [Wondolowski started scoring goals] we all thought, ‘Good for him, let’s see what he does the next year,’” Kinnear said. “Then the next year you thought, ‘Great for him, let’s see if he can continue this.’ A lot of people probably thought he was lucky: He’s not running by people. He’s just finishing goals. He’s making the most of his opportunities.
“But along the way he became a better soccer player, too. His hold-up play is good. He makes his living inside the box, but because of his better play he brings more people into the play, and that gives him better chances.”
Wondolowski also touched on how far he’s come in his postgame comments, giving credit to a couple of Houston legends.
“A lot of it is confidence, and I learned from some of the best who have played, guys like Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario, who have really made an impression on me and helped me,” Wondolowski said. “My younger years, when I went out there, I did not want to make a mistake. But now I have a lot more belief in myself and belief in my game. Sometimes, I wanted things so bad I would run myself out of good opportunities. Now I know to let the game come to me. I trust it.
“The game has slowed down a bit, and I’ve adjusted to it with my touch and a lot of hard work. Now I feel lot more confident under pressure and in tight spaces, where before I would start freaking out and spazzing out. Now, I’m more calm, cool and collected.”
As for the trade all those years ago, Wondolowski can joke about it now.
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“It was all part of [Kinnear’s] master plan,” Wondolowski said. “He knew he was coming back to San Jose someday and was planning ahead.
“I think [Kinnear] is an amazing coach,” Wondolowski added. “He drafted me and gave me a chance. He gave me an opportunity, and I’ve learned from him. I’m grateful to be playing for him again; he’s one of the best coaches in this league.”
And those 100 goals?
“It’s a bit surreal,” he said. “Right now, it’s fun. I enjoy going out there and whatever happens, happens.
"I grew up a fan of this club, so to be able do it for my hometown team in front of my friends and family is pretty cool. I got to give my dad a hug after, and he had tears in his eyes. He was my first coach and has helped me along the way. That’s what makes it special.”