SAN JOSE, Calif. – The final instructions US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann gave earlier this month to San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski should strike a little fear in the hearts of MLS opponents everywhere.
“He said that he’s going to be watching my MLS games and just keep doing what I’m doing,” Wondolowski said of Klinsmann, who gave the 29-year-old his eighth international cap in a friendly against Canada on June 3.
That means scoring more goals, and in bunches, as the Quakes resume their MLS schedule on Wednesday in Colorado (9:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Wondolowski is still tied for the league lead with 11 goals, despite missing San Jose’s final two games heading into their recent break while on US duty.
The 2010 Golden Boot winner joins an Earthquakes squad that has finally reached full strength, at least in terms of health. Outside of goalkeeper Jon Busch, who will serve a one-game suspension, Wednesday will mark the return to availability not only of Wondolowski, but also defender Víctor Bernárdez (above, with Busch) and midfielder Shea Salinas. Both players were injured in the Quakes’ 2-2 tie at New York on April 14 and haven’t appeared with San Jose’s first team since then.
“If you look at the Shea-Víctor injury situation, both were out eight weeks, and I thought both were having a really good start to the season,” said San Jose coach Frank Yallop, who felt the injuries robbed the club of what had been a well-settled core. “Not just Víctor, I think the whole team took a hit, because it was solid and it was playing well.”
Even though Wondolowski shares MLS’ top spot with New York’s Kenny Cooper, Bernárdez might be the most important reacquisition for San Jose’s arsenal. The Quakes didn’t allow a goal in the run of play through their first four matches – all with the big Honduran anchoring the back line – but have a goals-against average of 1.60 since then.
Bernárdez, who went down against the Red Bulls with a sprained MCL in his left knee, got a flying start on his return by featuring for Honduras in their World Cup qualifying matches earlier this month against Panama and Canada.
“I feel a lot better, totally recovered,” Bernárdez said through an interpreter. “I’m feeling good physically. [I had] three games and no problems. I’m looking forward to contributing to the team again.”
So is Wondolowski, who was honored to be selected by Klinsmann for inclusion in the American 23-man roster but still found it tough to get such a paucity of playing time. Except for a 10-minute stint against the Canadians, Wondolowski was rooted to the bench, aced out of potential playing time by the ascension of Herculez Gomez.
“You always want to play and be a part of the team as much as possible, but I still feel that I have some work to do,” Wondolowski said. “I learned a lot from the experience and it’s my job to try to beat someone out, and that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Bernardez is hopeful he can pick up right he left off in terms of the quality of play. He scored his third international goal in a friendly against El Salvador on June 2, although he knows that’s not what San Jose is expecting from him.
“If God allows, I’ll score [for the Quakes],” Bernárdez said, “but the best thing is to get a shutout in that first game.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.