SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In making his first appearance as an MLS substitute in nearly two years, San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski applied a simple formula:
“I think I just tried to put 90 minutes in 30 minutes of play. I was a bit fired up out there.”
That passion paid off for Wondolowski and the Quakes in a pair of second-half goals – the second two minutes into stoppage time – that lifted San Jose to a 2-2 tie against Portland on Wednesday.
And it almost boiled over after a match that turned increasingly chippy as time wore down. Minutes after becoming the first MLS player in a decade to score 21 goals, Wondolowski found himself in a spirited postgame jawing match with Portland defender David Horst, with teammates of both players eventually intervening.
“There were too many bleeps to fit into an article,” Wondolowski said of the discussion. “It’s just two fired-up guys. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about letting up two goals. We weren’t happy about getting a tie. It’s just one of those things. We’re a lot of dogs out there – just a lot of bark.”
Wondolowski’s bite helped the Quakes rescue a point against the Timbers, who unbeaten against San Jose since joining MLS last season. A quality, left-footed finish from 16 yards got San Jose within a goal at the 73-minute mark. And an open back-post header provided the game-tying score, marking the seventh time this year San Jose have gained points in second-half stoppage time.
From one perspective, it was a performance that should not have been a huge surprise. In Wondolowski’s most recent appearance as a substitute, on Oct. 20, 2010, he dropped a hat trick in the final 50 minutes against Chivas USA to snatch that year’s Golden Boot off the foot of Edson Buddle.
“Tonight, he saved our bacon a little,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said of Wondolowski. “He comes in, he gets two good goals and gets us a point out of something where we were struggling to find a goal tonight.”
San Jose coach Frank Yallop held Wondolowski and Alan Gordon out of the starting lineup for the middle portion of the Quakes’ three-matches-in-eight-days stretch, but always knew they would likely see action. Things became more urgent, however, in the 62nd minute when Danny Mwanga finished his brace with a sparkling goal from 25 yards.
Wondolowski had already been inserted four minutes earlier, but the 2-0 hole forced Yallop’s hand. Gordon hit the pitch in the 63rd.
“It kind of makes your mind up, what you want to do: ‘OK, we need to get players on that might score a goal,’” Yallop said. “The crazy gang comes on, and I thought we did a nice job of making sure those guys had chances.”
More importantly, Wondolowski was back to finishing them. His scores broke a personal string of eight matches without a goal from the run of play, and might be the harbinger of a late-season surge that’s been a Wondolowski specialty since 2010.
With 21 goals – the league’s best total since Carlos Ruiz and Taylor Twellman put up 24 and 23, respectively, in 2002 – Wondolowski needs three more over San Jose’s last five games to tie Ronald Cerritos’ franchise record for career scoring at 61. And at the far edge of the horizon sits Roy Lassiter’s league-record 27-goal haul from 1996.
“We’ve found out that I’m definitely a bit streaky,” Wondolowski said. “When I don’t score, it’s for a while and when I do, knock on wood, they kind of come in bunches as well.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.