When a soccer fan hears the name ‘San Jose Earthquakes’, the first thing that he or she likely thinks about is Chris Wondolowski.
Wondo is synonymous with the Quakes and has rewritten the club record books time and time again since being re-acquired from the Houston Dynamo in 2009. He has scored 144 career goals, one shy from tying the league record, and has tallied 10+ each year since 2010.
The 2012 MLS MVP has adapted to every situation he’s been faced with during his Major League Soccer career, including numerous coaching changes and an ever-evolving role on the pitch. After starting all 34 matches in 2017, Wondolowski played nearly 800 fewer minutes in 2018 and yet still finished with 10 goals and five assists.
But whatever preconceived notions prior coaching staffs had about Wondolowski can get tossed out the window. Head coach Matias Almeyda has made it clear that lineup selections are his decision and he values work ethic.
Wondolowski, who turns 36 on Monday, has built his legendary career on an unflappable work rate and willingness to run when others won’t. He’s never overpowered defenders with strength or speed, but rather a unique ability to disappear and reappear elsewhere moments later. He also possesses tidy finishing skills and an unparalleled sense of intuition.
But even though his minutes dipped in 2018, Almeyda’s appointment is a source of optimism for the 14-year veteran.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” Wondolowski said between training sessions on Saturday. “Our team is extremely talented and it breeds competition, which makes us better. We all have a clean slate and it’s fun to go out there and compete to earn whatever minutes we can.”
In addition to Wondolowski’s efforts on the field, Almeyda has asked the team’s most senior players – including the Danville native – to accept a mentorship role off of it. Instead of eating with his longtime friends in Shea Salinas, Tommy Thompson, Andrew Tarbell, etc., Wondo has been dining with players such as rookie Siad Haji and 16-year-old Homegrowns Gilbert Fuentes and Jacob Akanyirige.
“I think that’s some of the value that we bring to this team. We can show them the ropes, show them how to be professionals. It’s a great opportunity for us down here in Mexico because of the double-days. It really shows you what it takes to succeed.”