After an abysmal 2018 season, Chris Wondolowski found his chase of history bittersweet.
But with a new season, new coach, and new outlook, his wait is finally over.
Wondolowski scored four times Saturday afternoon, tying then repeatedly establishing the all-time MLS goal-scoring record while leading the Quakes (4-2-6) to victory over the Chicago Fire (4-4-5) by a score of 4-1.
Head coach Matias Almeyda said:
“I feel privileged to be able to coach a player about to achieve an important record and that he did it in the matter he did. He’s a great professional.”
Making just his first start since March 30, in place of the injured Danny Hoesen, Wondolowski took full advantage of his start in front of the home fans rewarding them more than they could ever have imagined for withstanding the light rain.
“I’m always ready, I know my role I know my job, it was fun. I didn’t think four goals were coming but driving in I had a special feeling.”
On the achievement, coach Almeyda said:
“I told him that when I watch my career highlight video it’ll be like 6 or 7 minutes, but when he watches
his, he’ll be able to sit down for an hour and a half to watch his goals.”
On the surface, Chicago came into the game in fine form, winning their last two games by a combined score of 7-0, but those games were at home. In the three previous games before the homestand, Chicago only managed to gain one point, a 0-0 draw against Los Angeles FC.
Both teams started allowing the other to play out the back, getting the goalkeeper involved without too much pressing of the ball from the defense.
The Quakes had a great chance early in the 14th minute when winger Shea Salinas picked up a pass from Nick Lima. From the top of the Chicago box, Salinas whipped in a low shot that was certain to find the net until a last second clearance by a defender two yards from the goal.
The Fire got their chance in the 17th minute, almost as if it was their turn. Forward Aleksandar Katai had a free header right in front of Daniel Vegas box only to head the ball wide of the goal.
Cristian Espinoza made his return to the lineup after serving his suspension for receiving two yellows back on May 4. He looked explosive again on the right flank, providing a threat all game.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute that originated from a sly run from Shea Salinas into the Chicago box. Once in a dangerous position, Salinas opted for a back post pass right to an open Wondolowski who just had to slide and direct the ball in for the point-blank goal.
Longtime teammate Salinas said:
“It’s just an honor to be apart of what he’s done, he’s an incredible person, teammate and goal scorer.”
With that goal, his first of the season, Wondolowski tied Landon Donovan atop the MLS career goal list with 145 goals, but he wasn’t close to done yet.
The Fire had a great chance to equalize about a minute later after a bad giveaway from Quakes keeper Daniel Vega. Luckily for the home team, the shot on goal from Nemanja Nikolic was rushed and right down the middle, allowing Vega to make the stop with his legs.
After two minutes of stoppage time, San Jose got themselves out of the rain and into the locker room with a slim one-goal lead.
The record-breaker came on what should have been a harmless cross from Espinoza three minutes into the half. Chicago Keeper David Ousted went up and caught the ball but inexplicably dropped it on his way down.
Waiting to pounce on any mistake like a true poacher, Wondolowski poked in the loose ball and ran into the mass of Earthquakes teammates celebrating on the sideline.
Salinas, who has assisted Wondolowski 14 times, said:
“It’s a perfect way to break the record from Wondolowski. He’s so vigilant around the box is always looking for that opportunity to score a goal and that one was just perfect. He is
rightwhere he needs to be and it goes in.
Jokingly, Wondolowski said of his record breaker:
“It’s crazy, I love visualization. I always pictured hitting a thirty-yard blast in the upper 90, I never pictured the goalkeeper dropping it and me tapping it in.“
Wondolowski would extend his record in style, bagging a hat trick in the 74th minute. Espinoza who was a menace all game exploded into the top of the Firebox and earned a foul, but managed to play a pass right before. The ball rolled to Wondolowski, and with the ref playing the advantage, Wondolowski found himself one on one with the fire keeper and buried his chance.
What a moment. Wondolowski would have no more to give, and would be subbed off the field with a three-goal lead to a huge ovation, right? No, wrong.
The party continued just two minutes later. The Chicago keeper would make a save but could not control the low shot. Jackson Yueill rebounded the ball and played a simple pass to an open Wondolowski who only had to swing his foot at the ball to extend his own record to 148 goals.
It was surprising to see Wondolowski open, but by then, Chicago seemed to already be thinking about getting themselves across the street for their flight back to Chicago.
“To be honest, this year has been so much fun. I think that this coaching staff and locker room have re-ignited the passion. I’m going out there not to score goals, I’m going out there because it’s fun, every practice I enjoy.”
The win gives San Jose four straight wins at home, a stark comparison to the form the Quakes showed at Avaya last year.
Coach Almeyda said:
“I think we have found a path to continue to go down. We are close to finding our system of play that will allow us to know how to plan for every game. The team today is the same squad that played last season. It’s the same player’s. We
‘re seeing huge growth both as a team and individually.”
Up next for San Jose is a cross-country flight to take on Toronto FC, who sit just outside of the playoff fringes in the Eastern Conference. They’ll kick off Sunday, May 26.