SAN JOSE, Calif. – By notching both goals in a 2-0 victory against FC Dallas last week, Chris Wondolowski extended his own MLS record. He’s now scored the San Jose Earthquakes’ last 12 goals in regular-season play, the longest such streak by a single player in league history.
Unlike most streaks, however, this one is not just based on Wondolowski’s success, but also requires the failure of his teammates. San Jose’s last non-Wondo goal came 11 regular-season matches ago, from now-departed Designated Player Geovanni, who scorched home a blistering shot Sept. 5 against Houston.
So it’s fair to ask as San Jose prepare to host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Direct Kick and MatchDay Live): Is this streak a good sign that Wondolowski will continue his 2010 Golden Boot-winning form? Or is it a bad omen that the Quakes rely so much on one player to carry their offense?
In this instance, coach Frank Yallop will take a bird in the hand – or, better yet, the back of the net – rather than two in the bush.
[inline_node:328622]“It’s a good thing, because he’s hot and he’s scoring,” Yallop said. “Yes, it would be nice obviously for someone else to score, but I think that the team is producing great efforts and chances for our top striker right now. It’s no difference to many top teams in the world, where they kind of rely on one guy.”
Yallop also rightly points out that the Quakes got two goals in the their next-to-last match of 2011 from Bobby Convey, who helped key a 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena. But since that match was part of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the streak – at least in terms of regular-season matches – remains intact.
From Wondolowski’s point of view, the streak should be judged by its results. He’s scored in six of San Jose’s last 11 regular-season matches, and San Jose won five of those contests.
“As long as we get wins, it’s always a good thing,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “If we had lost a lot of those games and I was the only one scoring, then it’s a problem. Right now, it’s alright.”
The problem is that San Jose are 0-3-2 in games where Wondolowski doesn’t score. If Wondolowski has an off night, then someone has to pick up the slack or the Quakes risk losing a game where they should earn points. Exhibit A: San Jose’s 1-0 season-opening loss to Real Salt Lake, a match where they dominated play and generated many more chances, only to see them all be found wanting.
Wondolowski acknowledges that while it’s unsustainable to have one player score all of his team’s goals, he doesn’t feel the balance has been skewed too far out of whack.
“This team creates opportunities,” Wondolowski said. “Everyone does their individual job, and my individual job is to try to get on the end of chances and finish them. That’s my job, and the team’s done a great job of creating them. That’s a good recipe.”
One potential answer as a scoring partner, new acquisition Steven Lenhart, will miss a second consecutive match due to personal reasons. So it will be up to the likes of Convey, Ryan Johnson, Joey Gjertsen and Simon Dawkins to bring an end to Wondolowski’s streak – hopefully as the accompaniment to a goal or two from Wondo.
Yallop said Friday that he’s planning on using the same lineup which took three points out of Frisco last week. That means Khari Stephenson, who performed strongly last year and started this year’s season-opener, will sit after missing last week’s game while playing for the Jamaican national team. Dawkins will again partner Wondolowski in central midfield, and Yallop had a long chat with Stephenson immediately after practice to discuss the move.
“I’m going to keep the same team because I think it deserves to play again,” Yallop said. “I think the chemistry was good. I thought Simon played well. It’s unlucky when [Stephenson] goes away that he doesn’t get a chance, but we have a long season, and many guys are going to get chances to play, Khari being one.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes