Wondolowski leads Earthquakes on and off field in US Open Cup victory

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes were riding high coming off their dramatic 2-1 comeback win against the LA Galaxy at sold-out Stanford Stadium earlier this month, but they were brought back down to earth when they learned that teammate Matheus Silva was in a coma after nearly drowning in an Independence Day accident at nearby Lake Tahoe. They lost later that evening at Atlanta United, and the team returned home to the Bay Area with heavy hearts.

Silva regained consciousness later in the week, and by Monday, the day of the Quakes' U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the LA Galaxy, was making progress in his recovery. The Brazilian is a very popular figure in the Quakes locker room, and team captain Chris Wondolowski did not hesitate to put together a tribute for the young midfielder.

In place on his iconic No. 8 uniform number, Wondolowski wore No. 38 -- Silva’s number -- instead. He went on to score two goals, as the Quakes defeated their rivals 3-2 to move on to the semifinal round of the tournament.

“Matheus means a lot to this team,” said Wondolowski. “He’s such a genuinely happy person and good person.”

The idea was all the captain’s, and he got the ball rolling the day before, talking it though with the team's equipment manager, to make sure it could happen. His coach, Chris Leitch, fully supported the gesture, and he was glad that Wondolowski and the rest of the team could find a way to bring Silva, even if just figuratively, to the game.

“I think it was a hell of a tribute,” said Leitch. “Obviously, you have something like this happen to a team, and it shakes you. That’s for damn sure. We talked to the team about it, and anything that happens after this news is pretty much insignificant, but the guys have been extremely professional. The guys have been worried, but they have been sending Matheus supportive messages. He’s been in our thoughts and prayers ever since, and will continue to be.”

Wondolowski’s show of support for Silva was appreciated by his teammates as well, with everyone expressing concern for his wellbeing. Players have taken to social media, as well as private messages, to express their best wishes as the midfielder continues his recovery. Silva was a big part of their thoughts going into the match, and the team was happy to get a result in his honor.

“It means a lot,” said midfielder Tommy Thompson, who chipped in two assists on the night. “Matheus has always been a smiling face in this locker room, and he’s been a big part of this team. I’m glad we got the win with his number on Wondo’s back. And for Wondo to get two goals was icing on the cake.”

Wondolowski even gave credit to Silva for his first goal of the evening -- a left-footed blast from outside the area that leveled the score at 1-1. He shared that he hasn’t scored one like that ever in his career, and that he gained even more confidence that his night was not done. Wondolowski would score his second goal to extend the Quakes lead, and his brace was ultimately the difference in San Jose’s victory.

“It’s really good to see your club captain be the leader on the field and get it done,” said Leitch. “Off the field, in the locker room, in the community, for the organization, you can’t ask for anything more than what Chris Wondolowski brings.”