On most teams, a guy who scores more than twice as many goals as any of his teammates would be able to claim whatever position he wants on the field.
Unfortunately for San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, he’s the exception to that rule.
Despite his eight goals on the season – no other Quake has more than three – Wondolowski drew the short straw against Houston last week, moving out wide on the left wing so that Designated Player Geovanni could make his first MLS start as a second striker behind Cornell Glen.
Coach Frank Yallop admits that Wondolowski “deserves a place” on the field with his production, but also knows something else.
“Wondo’s a good team guy,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com.
Right when most goal-scorers would start squawking to the media about their displeasures, the Bay Area native still has his perpetual smile on full-blast.
“I’ve grown up playing all sorts of positions: center mid, outside mid, up top,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve always kind of been rotated around, even during games. So, to be honest, it’s not that big of a transition.
“I know where to go, where to be, how to play those positions,” added the forward. “I just go out there and try to do it, and if we get W's, it brings an even bigger smile to my face.”
Taking the glass-half-full approach, Wondolowski points out that he’ll still get some chances to beat ‘keepers, even if it’s not as many as when he was part of the Quakes’ front line.
“[Scoring] is one of my strengths, and I feel like I’m going to get chances,” Wondolowski said. “Even if I was playing center back, I would end up finding my way in front of goal. I’ll always get a shot or two off a game playing outside mid. I just know I have to bear down and concentrate more and finish those chances.
“Frank still wants me to make runs; we don’t play traditional outside wingers. He wants us to go make runs, be tucked in, go through the middle. I’m all for that.”
Part of Wondolowski’s situation is of his own making. He has proven to be a thorn defensively as a forward, pressuring opposing goalies and harrying backs into making some errant passes rather than simply conserving energy for his next offensive foray.
“I always pride myself at being able to [play] on both sides of the ball,” Wondolowski said. “It’s almost more of a fulfillment for myself, being able to play on the outside, because I feel like I can tackle, help out defensively, read a couple of passes and still be able to go forward and attack.”
Of course, just after making the switch, Wondolowski might go back to his previous position. Khari Stephenson, who has been ably manning the attacking half of the Quakes’ center midfield pairing, did not practice Friday due to a left ankle injury, something he said would force him to miss Saturday’s game.
An obvious solution to fill that hole would be to move Geovanni back to the midfield. Even though he scored one goal and assisted on the other from a second striker position in San Jose’s 2-1 victory against Houston last week, San Jose’s DP is still a better option at midfield than Wondolowski, Arturo Alvarez or Bobby Convey, all of whom have taken spells in that role this season and flopped.
Wherever Wondolowski starts against Dallas on Saturday – whether at striker, at attacking midfield or on the wing – just don’t expect him to complain.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.