SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After all the successes he’s had in the last three years -- more than 50 MLS goals, an All-Star tally against Chelsea, a 30-minute behind-the-scenes television special, repeated call-ups with the United States national team -- one has to wonder: How is it possible that San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski has avoided contracting the egotistic affliction known as “big head disease”?
To Wondolowski, the answer is rooted in science.
“Physically, I have a small head,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com last week. “It’s smaller than normal. So that makes it easy.”
Jokes aside, the question remains intriguing. Given that Wondolowski has become the face of a San Jose franchise that leads the league, why isn’t he copping attitude?
“I think Wondo’s a blue-collar boy,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch told MLSsoccer.com. “His success is based on work, and that’s why he’s been successful here -- because this organization is built on hard work. . . . He comes out and works every day, works to make his game better. It’s great to see, because where he is, he could have a big head but he doesn’t. It makes it fun.”
Teammates, such as right back Steven Beitashour -- who is also in Mexico on US duty this week -- said it might be surprising if another player managed to remain untouched by the kind of fame that Wondolowski has found. But not so with Wondo.
“He’s different,” Beitashour told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s just so humble. If you didn’t know him, it would be surprising. But when you know him, everyone who knows him, they’re like, ‘That’s Wondo for you.’ He’s the same guy from when it started, two years ago, three years ago. He’s the same guy, every day.”
On some teams, a veteran might draw the task of needling the star player to make sure his ego is kept in check. That’s not the case on the Quakes, although Wondolowski admitted that he does have help in that area.
“I’m always going to have friends, family and a wife that will keep me grounded,” Wondolowski said. “My brothers are the first ones to tell me what I did wrong instead of what I did right. And that’s always a good thing.”
It’s a good thing not just from a personal perspective. When the guy with the most legitimate claim to an ego trip doesn’t manifest one, it helps set a pervasive, positive tone in the locker room. There’s a striking difference between the attitudes of this year’s highest-paid Quake (Wondolowski) and last year’s (Bobby Convey, shipped out over the winter to Sporting Kansas City).
“I’ve bought into it, and the whole team’s bought into it -- that we’re a hard-working group,” Wondolowski said. “It’s not about individuals, it’s not about superstars. It’s about the collective group. It takes all 28 guys in the locker room to do well in this league, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.