CARSON, Calif. — For the San Jose Earthquakes, a night of milestones could end up being the night they turned into a playoff team.
With the 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Sunday night, the Quakes are now tied for the final Western Conference playoff spot — although FC Dallas have two games in hand. Their star Chris Wondolowski also broke Landon Donovan’s mark for MLS goals on the road, before heading off to another US men's national team call-up.
Quakes head coach Chris Leitch took some umbrage to the implication that the Quakes snuck into a playoff spot, but the California Clasico victory did snap a three-match winless streak. If they continue to figure things out, the team has to like their chances fighting for the post-season.
“The playoff race is really tight,” said Leitch, “[with] a lot of really good teams vying for it. We’ve still got enough games that lie ahead. We’ve got to maximize our points for sure, we’ve got some road games still. But do I like our chances? Yeah, we’re going to give it our best go, that’s for sure.”
A visit to league-best Toronto FC next week will certainly pose a tough challenge, but otherwise, the month of September shakes out nicely for San Jose, with three games at home. And although his goal didn’t come until the end of the match, the coaching staff definitely noted Wondolowski’s work rate throughout. He continues to be the heart and soul of a team that’s starting to find its identity after struggling early in the season with injuries and form.
“He means so much,” said Leitch of Wondolowski. “His determination on the road, at home. He didn’t play traditionally up high today, and the amount of work he put into it was phenomenal. I guarantee he probably ran the most out there.
“Even in the biggest moments he steps up and comes through. Even in the smallest details, he excels at them.”
Calling on Wondolowski to play more of a set-up role shows the versatility the veteran offers, even though he’s more commonly known for his goal-scoring ability. In fact, USMNT head coach Arena reached out to Wondolowski to talk about his play this season, something that encouraged him through tougher times.
“Bruce [Arena] came to the game against Philadelphia [Union] this past Saturday,” said Wondolowski, “and I was able to speak to him after the game; [he] had some very nice things to say. That’s kind of what kept me going.”