SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski is still 10 goals shy of reaching the top spot on the MLS all-time scoring chart. But the current record-holder sounded Friday as though he considered the chase already over.
“It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable,” Landon Donovan told reporters at Avaya Stadium, speaking in advance of his return Saturday night to an American stadium for the first time since coming out of retirement to join Mexican side Club Leon in January.
Wondolowski has 135 career goals in league play, trailing only Donovan’s total of 145, and took sole possession of second place on the scoreboard with his first goal of 2018 last week in a 3-2 loss at Sporting Kansas City. Wondolowski has scored at least 11 goals in each of his last eight MLS seasons, making it seem likely that the record could fall before the year is up.
“When you look at Wondo’s career and how he’s done it, it’s incredible,” Donovan said. “For five or six or seven years, he didn’t really play. And then all of a sudden he came onto the scene and scored 15, 18, 20, 25 goals a year for however many years now. He deserves it. It’s going to happen at some point.”
Donovan admitted that it was hard, from an ego standpoint, to watch Wondolowski creep closer to his league mark and Clint Dempsey tie his US national team record of 57 goals. But knowing both those players as US teammates and fellow MLS stars helped to soften the blow.
“The human part of you wants them to do well,” Donovan said. “Getting to know [Wondolowski] as a human being, he’s just a nice, happy, joyful guy. So you want him to succeed.”
There was plenty of respect to go around Friday, when Wondolowski called Donovan the “greatest American player” and Donovan lauded Wondolowski’s ability to make himself indispensable to a Quakes side that has employed six different coaches (including interim office-holders) since 2013.
“The league’s changed so much from when he first came in and he keeps adapting and making it impossible to take him off the field,” Donovan said. “He deserves so much credit for that. That’s not easy. … I think it’s a credit to how hard he’s worked, because there was a time early in his career where you never, ever would have imagined that this would be possible. I’m happy for him.”