SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It looks like Chris Wondolowski, MLS’ Player of the Month for April, intends to win that award again in May.
Hours after receiving his honor for notching four goals and two assists last month, Wondolowski bagged another brace, powering the San Jose Earthquakes to a 5-3 victory over D.C. United on Wednesday.
Wondolowski moved back into the league lead with 10 goals on the season, one ahead of New York’s Thierry Henry.
Steven Lenhart bagged his second brace in the space of five days, and Justin Morrow added his first score of the season as San Jose – unbeaten in seven straight matches – set a team record for scoring at Buck Shaw Stadium.
It was more than enough to outweigh D.C. United goals from Dwayne De Rosario, Daniel Woolard and Hamdi Salihi. United’s unbeaten streak ended at seven as D.C. (4-2-3) suffered their first loss since March 18.
The Quakes (7-1-1) not only took over first place in the Western Conference, but also passed idle Sporting Kansas City for the league lead on 22 points. San Jose are 6-0-1 since losing to Houston 1-0 on March 17, and show no sign of slowing down in what remains the franchise’s best-ever start.
It was the first time San Jose scored five goals in a match since May 8, 2004, when the Quakes tied New York 5-5, and it wasn’t a huge surprise: With center backs Emiliano Dudar (hamstring) and Dejan Jakovic (ankle) left behind, D.C.’s defense never looked very convincing.
Lenhart showed why by walking onto the rebound after Woolard blocked Tressor Moreno’s attempt and lashing it home from 19 yards. It was a third goal in two matches for Lenhart, who netted both scores as a 60th-minute substitute in the Quakes’ 2-1 win at Philadelphia last Saturday.
Wondolowski’s goal came at the end of a beautiful slice of building play by San Jose, who made United pay for De Rosario’s turnover barely 25 yards from his own net. Khari Stephenson dispossessed De Rosario from behind, and a series of one- and two-touch passes from Stephenson to Moreno and Simon Dawkins concluded with the Englishman feeding Wondolowski a step inside the penalty spot. Wondolowski finished with his left foot past Joe Willis.
The goal goes down as Wondolowski’s league-leading fourth game-winner this season, putting him on pace to shatter MLS’ all-time record in that department – nine goals, shared by Wondolowski (2010) and Carlos Ruiz (2002, with LA Galaxy).
Morrow widened the gap with first goal of the season – courtesy of a little help from D.C. midfielder Danny Cruz. Willis appeared to have Morrow’s 12-yard attempt off a deflected corner kick covered at the back post, but Cruz intervened, and Willis had no time to adjust.
Wondolowski got his second in the 69th minute, heading through Willis’ hand to convert Steven Beitashour’s fifth assist of the season.
Lenhart recorded the final San Jose tally in the 74th, chesting in the rebound after Marvin Chávez pinged the crossbar.
De Rosario put D.C. up in the eighth minute, rushing in unchecked on a loose ball at 28 yards, delivering a scalding shot high to the left side of helpless San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch. It was De Rosario’s fifth goal in the last three seasons against San Jose.
That number was almost six, but Busch came up with a spectacular pawing save in the 35th minute to turn aside De Rosario’s fantastic bicycle kick and push the ball wide enough that Chris Pontius couldn’t jam home the rebound.
De Rosario keyed D.C.’s final two goals. He switched fields in the 64th minute, springing Andy Najar on the right endline, where he fired a cross to the back post. Woolard made it count with a diving header.
Salihi then ran onto De Rosario’s lead pass in the 88th minute and chipped one home over Busch, for the Designated Player's first MLS goal, but it was too late to change to change the outcome.
In the absence of Dudar and Jakovic, Robbie Russell moved inside for D.C. to partner Brandon McDonald. Perry Kitchen took over Russell’s usual right back spot. Marcelo Saragosa opened at defensive midfielder for his first start since March 24, but D.C. coach Ben Olsen brought Najar on for Saragosa at the interval.
Najar played as an offensive-minded right back in the second half, with Kitchen moving back into the midfield.
Quakes coach Frank Yallop made three changes to the side that win in Philadelphia. Lenhart and Chávez were back in the lineup – Lenhart up top and Chávez on the right wing. With Stephenson dropping back to a holding role in midfield, that allowed Yallop to have two of his true workhorses – Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin – open on the bench.
San Jose captain Ramiro Corrales jumped back into the lineup at left back. Morrow slid back to the center in place of Ike Opara.
Both teams will finish stretches of three games in eight days with trips to Canada this weekend: San Jose travel to Vancouver, while D.C. visit Toronto.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Wondolowski||Let's point this out: With a multi-goal lead, at home, in the 86th minute he tracked back 90 yards to block a cross. How many forwards show that commitment?|
|2||Steven Lenhart||He's toned down the histrionics and, instead, started bagging goals. Two more on the night plus yeoman's work holding the ball up. And he's such an underrated passer.|
|3||Dwayne De Rosario||Highlight-reel goal. Highlight-reel assist. 90 minutes of leadership all over the pitch. They didn't get the win tonight, but they'll get plenty this year - largely because of him.|