Chris Wondolowski was watching nervously Sunday as Los Angeles Galaxy forward Edson Buddle tried to tally the one goal he needed to snatch the MLS 2010 Golden Boot from his San Jose counterpart.
Even if he hadn’t been, however, Wondolowski still would have had a pretty good inkling that a scoreless Buddle was subbed out from Los Angeles’ 2-1 win over Dallas, given the flood of congratulatory calls and texts that immediately came his way.
“The phone started going off,” Wondolowski said. “I didn’t realize I had that many people that knew my number.”
Wondolowski and the rest of the Quakes are hoping the 18-goal scorer isn’t as easy to locate on Saturday night, when San Jose hosts New York in the teams’ playoff opener.
To that end – at least in part – San Jose coach Frank Yallop is considering a new wrinkle this week in his game plan: flip-flopping the positions of Wondolowski and the Quakes’ Designated Player, Geovanni.
If Yallop follows through on that move, Wondolowski would pair up top with Ryan Johnson, while Geovanni would patrol the right wing. Yallop employed that formation for the second half of the Quakes’ regular-season finale and has also been working on it in practice this week.
[inline_node:321923]“Geo likes to drop back for the ball, so it gives a little bit more support to Ryan up top,” said Wondolowski, who spent most of the season's final 10 matches on the wing. “Also, he can whip in a great ball. He’s a fabulous guy crossing it and taking on guys. He’s gotten his fitness to where he’s able to go both ways and track back defensively, too. I think it’s just all positives.”
Another plus to the possible move is that it puts Wondolowski closer to goal. Given that the Quakes have only had one match in their last 15 where they’ve gotten a goal from someone other than the Golden Boot winner, anything that helps maximize Wondolowski’s scoring potential is worth exploring.
“Anytime you get close to the goal, it makes you more dangerous,” Wondolowski said. “But that being said, I know I’m going to have a couple big center backs right behind me and right on me.”
The move, if it comes, also could be partially a reaction to Geovanni’s growing tendency to sink ever deeper in search of the ball. The Quakes want the Brazilian playmaker to have the ball at his feet as much as possible, which is why Yallop originally envisioned him in a role similar to that of Columbus’ Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
But of late, Geovanni has been at times looping all the way into the Quakes’ defensive third to take the ball directly from San Jose’s back line, which is fine for a midfielder, but less so for a striker — even one in a withdrawn position.
“If you’ve got two true forwards at home, you’ve got more of a chance of scoring,” Yallop said. “I think Geo drifts – he’s a good player, but he drifts into areas to find space. I think if you maybe define his role a little bit, it might be easier. I want the guys to be comfortable in what they’re doing.”
To some extent, the debate is a semantic one, as Wondolowski points out, since it’s not as though San Jose’s wingers are pinned to the sidelines.
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“We still have guys just floating in and out, with a lot of fluidity where we can interchange,” Wondolowski said. “So that might be where we start, but I highly doubt that’s where we’re going to end up.
"Bobby Convey will be making runs everywhere, so they have to pick them up and I can find those spaces. Geo will be making runs out of the midfield, he’s not just going to stand out there the whole time. So we’ll all be moving around a lot more. But it’ll still put me a lot closer to goal.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes
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