SAN JOSE, Calif. — 2020 will be the final chapter of one of the most fascinating and legendary careers in MLS history.
“Yep,” Wondolowski swiftly told MLSsoccer.com, with an impassioned look on his face, when asked if 2020 was the final year of an illustrious career.
A soon-to-be 37-year-old Wondolowski will walk away from the game with accolades and memories that anyone who’s made a living on a soccer field could only dream of. With the most memorable of all, obviously, being his four-goal performance against Chicago Fire FC, making him the league’s all-time goalscorer.
But even at his age, with little to prove, Wondo still has one burning desire he wants to fulfill — and no, ironically, it doesn't necessarily involve scoring goals day in and day out.
“Win,” he says, “I want to win. I don’t have to worry about any records, anything else. You know, whatever job is needed for me to do, I’m willing to do it. If it’s come off the bench, I’ll do that. If it’s to be a water boy, I’ll be the best water boy there is. Honestly, I’ll do whatever it takes to win this year.”
A double-digit goalscorer every year the past decade, Wondo is far from losing his touch. In fact, 2019 was one of Wondo’s best campaigns, leading the Quakes with 15 goals in just 1,982 minutes on the field, a personal best since 2015.
Yet Quakes coach Matias Almeyda isn’t guaranteeing anyone a starting spot on his roster, not even Wondo. In a press conference on Wednesday, the Argentine indicated that the legendary striker will have three teammates to compete with for minutes, in what he categorized as a “good” competition.
That hasn’t been his message to Wondo, however.
“I never stop telling him to enjoy soccer,” Almeyda said when asked about coaching Wondolowski during his last season. “And if it’s his last year, that he takes it with tranquility and love, because when you leave soccer, it is difficult to replace the day-to-day [life] of a player. So, he has a year ahead of him, and a coach who is going to support him so that he can be happy kicking a ball.”
San Jose fullback and longtime fan Nick Lima had a melancholic moment of his own when speaking of his teammates’ last go.
“It’s kinda hard to explain, because while I was growing up, I had those feelings as a kid watching him — getting to see what he did when I was traveling with the first-team in high school,” he told a flock of reporters. “I still watch what he does and take little pieces of his game — that mentality that got him where he is and the national team success — to implement in what I do and to pass it on to other guys, young forwards. He’s our captain and will always be.”
During his last media day of his career as a player, Wondolowski also affirmed that he’ll always feel like the Quakes captain in spirit, as hard as it might sound to watch his former teammates from afar.
“Honestly, I will always wrestle with that and I will always think I can be on the field,” he said. “You know, I’ll probably be 80 years old with a walker and think, ‘I could have finished that. I could still be out there. I wish I was running the beep test right now.’ It’s more those ‘what ifs’ or missing time with the guys that I probably would be missing most.”