San Jose Earthquakes General Manager John Doyle knew Chris Wondolowski was an efficient finisher.
What Doyle didn’t realize was that Wondolowski is an MVP-caliber goal scorer.
On June 9, 2009, Doyle pulled the trigger on perhaps the most lucrative trade in San Jose Earthquakes history. On the way out was disappointing off-season acquisition Cam Weaver for Wondolowski, the second-leading goal scorer in MLS this season.
With the Houston Dynamo set to visit Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday, Wondolowski hopes to find the net for the 15th time this season at the expense of his former side.
“I think he’s always been a goal-scorer, a good finisher and a good teammate to people,” Doyle said. “You never would have envisioned that he’s up to 14 goals and finishing the way he’s finishing, but you did know at the time that he was a great teammate. (He) gives you 100-percent effort and you know what, he’s gotten his chances and he’s taken his chances better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
A Bay Area native and a four-year player at Chico State, Wondolowski showed a knack for scoring throughout his career. After leading the now defunct reserve league in goals for three consecutive years, it was clear Wondo had the talent to play in MLS.
All he needed was a chance. After toiling on the bench behind a bevy of talented strikers in Houston, Wondo finally received that chance in San Jose.
Following the trade from Houston last season, Wondolowski tallied three goals and one assist in 14 games with the Earthquakes. Weaver, to his credit, posted identical scoring numbers for the Dynamo in 2009.
The real disparity between the two players has been 2010.
Wondolowski has entered MVP discussions for his 14 goals in 25 games played – eight of which were game winners - while Weaver has struggled mightily with just two goals in 11 appearances.
“Wondo fits into the way that the team’s playing,” Doyle said. “(He has a) very workmanlike style, getting behind the ball, trying hard. It’s more of a team of effort. Everybody working together and I think his mentality is to work for the team.”
Wondolowski fits into the Quakes system in more ways than one. He started the season as a striker, but moved to right midfield after San Jose signed former Hull City and FC Barcelona star Geovanni.
For some, a move from up front to the midfield would mean fewer goals. On the contrary, Wondo’s transition has been to the tune of five goals in his last four games –a hat trick to beat Toronto 3-2 at BMO Field and a brace on Saturday against D.C. United to clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Great play by all the other guys,” a modest Wondolowski said. “Having Bobby Convey out there, Khari Stephenson, Geovanni, Arturo Alvarez, Ryan Johnson – it’s a team effort.”
An interesting stat: Of Wondolowski’s 21 career MLS goals, all but one have been one-touch.
Call it what you want – great service, being in the right place at the right time or just plain lucky – Wondolowski is a true finisher. If a ball bounces near the frame, you can bet Wondo will be in the area with his Midas touch ready to unleash a net-bound blast.