SAN JOSE, Calif. -- “Wondo, Wondo, Wondo,” rung throughout Avaya Stadium with sheer force.
These are the type of scripts not even the sports gods can write, but Christopher Elliott Wondolowski is the exception.
With that in mind, the chants don't suffice, but they are warranted.
Wondolowski, a Supplement Draft pick in 2005, has reached MLS immortality, doing so in emphatic, gritty and unimaginable fashion. When only two goals were needed to surpass Landon Donovan’s all-time goal scoring record, the San Jose Earthquakes captain delivered his first four-goal performance of his historical, 16-year career.
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“It’s so surreal that I get a message from Landon Donovan, that he even knows my name,” Wondolowski said in front of a packed press conference room after surpassing Donovan’s record to become MLS’s all-time leading goalscorer. “It’s still crazy and boggles my mind that that’s the level.
“I got messages after the game on the video board," he added. “Those guys, you know, that they even know my name, talking to me, congratulating me. It’s amazing. It’s still surreal. It still hasn’t sunken in. I’m not sure when it will or if it will -- until I’m even more gray and a lot older. It’s special.”
For a player that has made a memorable career by defying odds, the scene on Saturday was, ironically, ideal from the start. The Quakes were riding a three-game unbeaten streak at home and were hosting Hall of Fame night on a rainy afternoon, and Wondolowski, who hadn’t made a start in seven games, squeezed in the lineup last-minute due to a failed fitness test from teammate Danny Hoesen.
Like his career, it wasn’t supposed to go that way, but it did.
“It’s crazy,” the forward mentioned, “My rookie year I was envisioning 148 minutes. If I got that, that would have been pretty cool.”
Despite tallying double-digit goalscoring seasons for nine seasons in a row, the Bay Area native was waiting to celebrate his first one of 2019. As the weeks went by, the external doubt piled, while the interest on #WondoWatch began to fade. So when the tap inside the six-yard box tap became number 146, Wondolowski knew who to run to -- his teammates, the ones who never lost faith in their captain.
“We all knew it was coming,” longtime teammate Tommy Thompson said on Wondolowski’s achievement. “It was a matter of time. He’s an incredible player and he’s proven it all throughout his career. I think there’s been a lot of people that doubted him.”
“Regardless of what the media was saying, he continued to show what he can do,” he added. “And so we knew at some point he was going to have a game like this. I’m excited it was today. It was fun to watch... When he broke the record, you could see how excited everyone on the team was because we knew it was coming.”
Matias Almeyda, who admits he told his interpreter and one of his coaching staff members that he thought Wondolowski was set to score “four goals” ahead of the game, was just as ecstatic for the player that is now solely sitting on the throne.
“I’m happy for him,” Almeyda said. “I was just telling him that, for example, when I watch my highlight videos, they’re only six, seven minutes long because I scored eight goals in my career.
“When he’s my age, he’s going to be able to sit down and watch for an hour and a half,” the Argentine quipped. “I told him to enjoy the moment, that’s why I subbed him off when there was a little bit of time remaining. I saw his family, his daughters. Really, it’s moving. I congratulate him, and I’m happy to be a part of his achievement from the outside.”
Knowing Wondolowski, the story isn’t quite over, however.
“Honestly, I’m just having fun right now,” Wondolowski said. “It’s rejuvenating and it has reignited this passion. I’m really having fun right now.”