SAN JOSE, Calif. — All eyes will be on Chris Wondolowski this Sunday, as the San Jose Earthquakes’ forward needs only one more goal to match Landon Donovan’s MLS goal scoring mark of 145.
The Quakes will be facing the Colorado Rapids at Avaya Stadium in a meeting between the Western Conference’s two bottom teams, but that won’t diminish the excitement fans are expected to bring to San Jose’s final home game of the season, not with Wondo so close to the record.
The Earthquakes are in the midst of a six-game losing streak — the longest in Wondolowski’ 10+ year tenure on the team — and the crowds at Avaya have slowly diminished. In a season that will go down as the worst in franchise history, “Wondo Watch” is all most fans have to look forward to.
“Yeah, it’s cool just because it’s there, it’s tangible, but it’s so frustrating losing these games, especially at home in front of these fans,” Wondolowski said after the previous game, a 3-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls. “To hear them all night, still cheering, still backing us is pretty special and they deserve better right now.”
While admitting he is not thrilled with all the attention paid to his chase of the MLS record, Wondolowski is keenly aware of his place in history, and to pass Donovan, a player he has looked up to since his collegiate years at Chico State, fills him with a sense of honor.
“It’s a great thing, and, to be honest, just to be mentioned in the same breath as him is surreal,” he said.
Against the Red Bulls, Wondo scored the 144th of his career to bring his season tally to 10 goals — the ninth straight season he’s reached double-digits — a mark of both talent and durability, and a nod to the hard work of his teammates throughout the years. The week earlier he surpassed 25,000 minutes in his MLS career, a milestone that had him reflecting, at 35, on a career that got off to a very slow start.
“That one means a lot,” Wondolowski said. “It’s a round number, for sure, but it sheds a lot of light on having been lucky all these years. I remember back to being in Houston and hoping I would get a 100 minutes. To now come into my own, and get to 25,000, it’s something special.”
Earlier this year, the Earthquakes hosted Donovan and Club Leon of Liga MX in a friendly at Avaya Stadium, a game in which the current record holder scored the game winning goal. He and Wondolowski had a chance to spend time together before the game, discussing their careers, and Donovan gave his blessings to the Quakes captain in his pursuit of #145.
Wondolowski, who can at times be his harshest critic, graciously accepted the legend’s favors, but he admitted recently that he might have been pushing himself too hard to score goals instead of letting the scoring opportunities come to him.
“It was weighing on my mind earlier this season, and that is not the best idea,” he said. “I am able to find myself in that right spot when everyone is playing better and my focus is on helping the team the best.”
Wondo has scored in each of the last two games — one as a starter and one off the bench — so he’s in a bit of a groove of late. He is expected to be in the starting lineup against Colorado on Sunday in the Quakes home finale, and with his teammates backing him up, the odds are that he’ll find the back of the net again.
● Last week, the Earthquakes announced that Jahmir Hyka underwent reconstructive surgery to repair multiple facial fractures he had suffered in training accident. The Albanian midfielder is expected to be sidelined for 2-3 weeks, which likely means he will miss the rest of the season.
● Guram Kashia and Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili have returned from international duty, where the pair helped Georgia to two wins in the UEFA Nations League. The results guarantee that Georgia will finish atop Group 1 in League D and be promoted to League C for the next tournament, which begins in 2020. Kashia and Vako are available for selection this Sunday against the Rapids.
● Anibal Godoy and Harold Cummings are also back with the Quakes after both playing the full 90 minutes for Panama in games against Japan and South Korea across the Pacific. Cummings was unfortunate to have scored an own-goal in a 3-0 loss to Japan. Panama rebounded to draw the South Koreans 2-2.
● JT Marcinkowski is expected be in goal for San Jose against Colorado, his fourth start of his rookie season, and the homegrown signing will be looking to get his first result after three straight losses. In those appearances, Marcinkowski has allowed nine goals, an average of three goals per game. The Rapids pose a less dangerous opponent than the previous three, but the Earthquakes have conceded 69 goals already this season, a franchise record, and have only one shutout all season.
● The Quakes announced their club awards this week, with Danny Hoesen named Most Valuable Player and Nick Lima named Defensive Player of the Year. Hoesen leads the team with 12 goals this season, while Lima has started all 32 games, the only player on the roster to do so. Wondolowski had won six of the previous seven club MVP awards.
When: October 21, 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: Avaya Stadium, San Jose, CA.
Broadcast: NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+
Earthquakes injury report: Out: Kevin Partida (knee surgery); Jahmir Hyka (facial surgery); Jacob Akanyirige (head injury).