SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Whenever the ageless Chris Wondolowski does choose to retire from professional soccer, his biggest parting gift should come from the Seattle Sounders.
The 33-year-old San Jose Earthquakes captain once again tormented his biggest MLS victim, scoring his 10th career goal against Seattle in a 1-1 draw at Avaya Stadium on Saturday night. That’s the biggest output by any individual MLS opponent against the Sounders.
“I said it before the game to the Seattle media: ‘We need to stop Wondo,’” said Seattle interim head coach Brian Schmetzer, who has seen all 10 goals for the US international against the Sounders. “He’s a tremendous player. I have a ton of respect for him.”
Wondolowski played atop a 4-5-1 formation Saturday, a position he hadn’t seen much of in 2016 after struggling to keep a foothold there the previous season under coach Dominic Kinnear. Having Wondolowski leading the line paid off in the 20th minute when defender Victor Bernardez launched a long cross-field pass in the direction of Jordan Stewart, who was making a free run down the left side. Seattle right back Tyrone Mears’ attempted interception merely deposited the ball in Stewart’s path, allowing him to find Wondolowski, who had broken smartly behind Seattle’s center-back pair of Chad Marshall and Roman Torres to side-foot the ball home from 7 yards.
“Any time you’re a forward, you have to be optimistic,” Wondolowski said. “As soon as I saw it leave Victor’s foot, I’m always trying to make that run and hoping for the worst from them. And it happened … Ninety-nine other times [out of 100], it doesn’t work, and you make an extra 30-yard run. This time it worked out, and that’s why you always make those runs.”
The Quakes’ captain has now tallied at least 10 goals in seven consecutive seasons; no other player in league history has more than five, a level reached by Juan Pablo Angel and Carlos Ruiz.
But Wondolowski hadn’t scored since July 31, a five-match drought during which time the Quakes managed just three goals and were also shut out three times. His first-half tally Saturday was equalized in the 80th minute by Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro, costing the Quakes critical points in their Western Conference playoff chase.
“I thought we possessed the ball well, but we didn’t have that killer instinct and put them away, and they punished us late in the game,” said Wondolowski, who disputed the notion that the Quakes had a psychological letdown after nosing in front. “You always want to keep that zero, especially after you get the lead, and I think that we still created opportunities after that. We came out very motivated, flying, pushing guys forward, and obviously you have to change tactically a bit [after scoring], but if we find that second goal, it’s a whole different game.”
Kinnear put it more succinctly: “I’m happy Chris scored, but I’m still sitting here talking about a tie.”