SAN JOSE, Calif. — After overcoming a difficult start to the season, the San Jose Earthquakes are beginning to find their stride. In their past 8 games, they’ve earned 14 points, a 1.75 points per game pace that, over an entire season, would be good enough to qualify for the postseason.
The Quakes are coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire, punctuated by Chris Wondolowski’s coronation as the MLS goal scoring king, and the team sits in ninth place in the West, two points out of a playoff position. They now face two tough Eastern Conference foes on the road, the first Toronto FC.
“We know all away games are difficult, but now we have a chance to jump up in the table,” Godoy said. “We have two straight games on the road, which will be difficult for us, but if can stay concentrated and if we can play like we do at home, it will be possible for us to take the three points in Toronto.”
San Jose is 0-3-2 away from Avaya Stadium, one of four MLS teams to not win on the road this season. But the Earthquakes carry a lot of momentum into their game against Toronto, and they’ll want to avoid another road letdown like they had a couple weeks ago in New England, losing 3-1 to the reeling Revolution in a game in which mistakes cost them points.
Head coach Matias Almeyda will have some decisions to make regarding his starting lineup, as no one is listed on this week’s injury report. Before the Chicago game, regular starting forward Danny Hoesen picked up a small injury and was pulled from the team, opening the door for Wondolowski to start. The Quakes’ eternal captain did not disappoint, scoring a personal-best four goals in dousing the Fire, but he still is willing to take his place back on the bench should Hoesen be ruled available to play.
“I consider Danny as one of the best strikers in this league,” Wondolowski said. “Rightfully so, that’s his spot right now, and so, whatever role I can and will play, I’m open for it and ready to go when my number gets called.”
The odds are that Almeyda will play the hot hand in Toronto, giving Wondolowski his second straight start. The coach and player have communicated throughout the season on the role Wondo has in the team, and it is one that every other player on the roster understands and respects.
“Chris, for everybody, is our one captain on the team,” Godoy said. “Everybody on the team follows Wondo because he is the most experienced in the team. He helps with everything on and off the field. Wondo now doesn’t play as many games, he comes off the bench, but he still has the same work, the same attitude in training. This is what we need from our captain.”
The Earthquakes also need goals, and in one game, Wondolowski put his name on the top of the team’s goal scoring list, tied with Shea Salinas with four. As the team has improved under Almeyda’s guidance, getting the balance of offense and defense responsibilities figured out, the Quakes have looked more comfortable and confident on the field. Wondo’s historic night was, indeed, a special moment in a special career, but it doesn’t happen without a complete team effort.
“We’re not having a competition of who can score more goals,” Salinas said. “We just want to go out there and score goals. I think there were three different guys that had assists, so we’re out there to be productive, be dangerous on offense, and I think all of us are going to get our own chances.”
But is would be foolish not to have Wondolowski on the field against Toronto, a team he has found success against in years past, especially as he has found his groove following a long goalless spell. His four-goal game against the Fire all but demands that Almeyda include him in the starting eleven.
“That’s very important,” Wondolowski said. “I think that just being a striker, and especially for myself, it comes in bunches, both good and bad. I hit a dry spell and was wondering ‘Is it going to end? Is it going to come?’ Then I was hoping once one goes in, they’re going to come and it kind of did on Saturday and I really have new confidence again. It’s amazing how sometimes you see the ball at the back of the net and the goal looks that much bigger rather than like you’re shooting on a hockey net sometimes. Two tough road trips going to Toronto and DC, but I think we have a lot of confidence in this locker room right now, and in myself as well.”
Whoever gets the call this weekend and next, the Earthquakes as a whole have one mission: earn their first away win of the season. They know the challenge, but they have their sights set squarely on the prize.
“On the road, it is very difficult to take three points,” Godoy said, “but we go to Toronto for fighting.”
When: May 26, 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada.
Broadcast: NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+
Earthquakes injury report: none.