Quakes TV and radio personality John Shrader is back to The Spin after a layoff due to shoulder surgery. Check in each week for his opinions on all things regarding the Blue & Black.
He is in some respects the wonderment of the league, this guy they call Wondo.
Who is he? How does he do it? Where has he been for five years?
These are the questions we get from MLS fans and broadcasters everywhere we go these days.
From his teammates you get comments like, “He does this in practice all the time. He’s the best finisher on the team. He’s the hardest working guy and we’re so happy for him.”
The Earthquakes forward/midfielder Chris Wondolowski is the second-leading scorer in MLS with 14 goals in 25 games. LA’s Edson Buddle has 16 goals. Eight of Wondo’s 14 are game-winners. He is one short of the team’s all-time record for goals in a season, set by Ronald Cerritos in 1999. He is one game-winner short of the MLS record set by Carlos Ruiz of the Galaxy in 2002.
Aw shucks. That’s what you get from the wonderful Wondo.
“It is pretty surreal,” he says. “I don’t really think it’s sunk in yet.”
Coach Frank Yallop says Wondolowski gets what he earns.
“He works hard in training,” Yallop says. “He practices finishing. It is not luck. When you work hard and practice hard you’re good.”
When this season started, Wondolowski figured to be a bench guy, a spot starter, an insurance policy. But when three players went down in a U.S. Open Cup game early in the season, Yallop cashed in on that insurance policy. And the returns have been spectacular.
Wondo scored a goal in each of the first four games he started. In the last two road wins, the Danville native has accounted for every single goal, first in a 3-2 win at Toronto and in last week’s 2-0 win at D.C United.
“He has talent, obviously,” Yallop said. “He has a great desire to do well. He’s found a home here and he’s doing great. I’m very happy for him.”
The Quakes have three games to go in the regular season. Their spot in the eight-team MLS Cup Playoffs is secure. Their seeding position in the tournament is not set. Wondo’s drive for the Golden Boot is just one of the many things to play for between now and the end of the regular season, Oct. 23 in Kansas City.
I won’t tell you how much money Wondo makes, but suffice it to say it’s commensurate with a guy who had only seven goals in 53 games in five professional seasons. And suffice it to say, it’s considerably less than Buddle and not even in the universe of guys like Donovan and Angel, who aren’t in the same universe with Beckham, Henry and Marquez.
The Quakes have a history in the last ten years of finding guys who become stars. They are nondescript, mostly American kids who buy into the system and thrive: Ching, Mullan, Mulrooney, DeRosario.
And now Wondolowski. Will he be a one-season wonder? We can’t be sure, but almost certainly not. He does more than score goals. On the day he scored his hat trick in Toronto, his biggest play of the day may have been the goal-saving tackle he made on Chad Barrett in the penalty area.
It was aggressive, confident, and, like his season, it seemed to come out of nowhere.