San Jose Earthquakes play "inspired soccer" vs. Sporting KC on Chris Wondolowski's landmark night

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It took Chris Wondolowski a few matches to regain his stride in MLS play, but when he finally found the scoresheet for the first time since spending July with the US Gold Cup squad, it set him up to reach even more milestones for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Wondolowski tallied a brace as the Quakes ripped apart a listless Sporting Kansas City defense en route to a 5-0 road victory Wednesday. The goals -- a 17th-minute penalty kick, followed by a 61st-minute header -- were Wondolowski’s 99th and 100th in regular-season league play for the Quakes, making him the club’s first player to reach that plateau.

“The accolades keep coming for that kid, and I’ve known him for a long period of time,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters. “I think everybody that knows him or is close to him is really happy for him. He’s scored goals in many different fashions and many different stadiums around the league. He’s been so consistent over the years.”

Wondolowski, who scored four regular-season goals during his years in Houston, also moved into a tie with Dwayne De Rosario for sixth place on the all-time league scoring chart. NYCFC coach Jason Kreis is up next at 108 goals.

Additionally, the Quakes’ captain became the first MLS player to score at least 10 regular-season goals in six consecutive seasons, breaking a tie he’d previously held with Juan Pablo Angel and Carlos Ruiz.

“This league has had some of the best strikers and some people that I really look up to,” Wondolowski said. “To do that [score 10 or more goals in six straight years], it’s quite an accomplishment. But I owe a lot of that to my teammates. They were able to feed me a lot of my goals, just coming inside the six. That’s because of them.”

With playmaker Matias Perez Garcia staying in San Jose due to a left hamstring injury and the Quakes trying to win in Kansas City for the first time in more than a decade, it hardly seemed like the time for San Jose’s offense to break out.

But Kinnear paired newcomer Anibal Godoy with Fatai Alashe in the center of the pitch, and pushed Wondolowski ever-so-slightly up from his previous station, getting just that much closer to point man Quincy Amarikwa in what was officially listed as a 4-4-2.

As Shea Salinas noted in a halftime TV interview, the move allowed Wondolowski to harry Kansas City’s center backs further up the pitch. It also meant that Wondolowski had less far to go to bring his center of gravity to bear inside the opposition’s penalty area -- as was the case on San Jose’s opener.

After Godoy helped create a turnover at midfield, Salinas tore down the left side in the game’s third minute, skinning Kansas City’s Chance Myers to reach the end line. With Wondolowski’s near-post run sucking in Sporting left back Amadou Dia, Cordell Cato streamed down the center channel and slammed home Salinas’ pull-back delivery.

It was exactly the kind of thing the Quakes had been hoping for for weeks -- and so was the ensuing cascade of goals. This was San Jose’s biggest margin of victory since a 5-0 pasting of 10-man Real Salt Lake on July 14, 2012.

“It made good sense to come here against a real good team to have some real good balance, and it helped,” Kinnear said. “I thought every one of our players had a good game tonight, which sometimes during the season doesn’t happen all the time. And we scored some really good goals. We defended well. We broke well. But to have those two in the middle of midfield today really made us look solid.”

The Quakes didn’t sit back on the lead, but kept up their high pressure instead. Wondolowski drove into the right side of Sporting’s penalty area in the 16th minute before squaring a pass to Cato, who fed a lovely one-touch ball to Amarikwa. Myers ran over Amarikwa, giving San Jose its fourth PK of 2015.

As with the other three, Wondolowski converted the chance. This time, the goal broke a 419-minute personal drought for Wondolowski, who was shut out in his first four games after the US’ disappointing fourth-place Gold Cup finish.

“We have our backs against the wall,” Wondolowski said. “We were going to come out swinging and keep our playoff aspirations afloat. We had a game plan and we executed it.”

San Jose followed in close order with Godoy’s first MLS strike, a carbon-copy connection from Salinas to Cato and finally -- after a brutal miss on a nearly empty net in the 52nd minute – Wondolowski’s second of the evening. This time, Wondolowski dove to beat a defender by a fraction of a second to reach a right-wing cross from Alashe. Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia got a hand to it, but couldn’t stop the curling attempt.

“I thought we played some inspired soccer, especially early, were very hard to deal with,” Wondolowski said. “You get a goal or two, your [opponent] starts pressing, starts leaving a couple more gaps and we were able to punish them on our chances.”