Could a player who has scored 144 career goals really cause a scene by scoring a few more?
That’s exactly what Chris Wondolowski did on Saturday by tying and later breaking Landon Donovan’s record for career goals in MLS. However, it wasn’t just the goals – or the record – that made the day very, very unique. It was a host of surrounding circumstances that led to the milestone.
Wondolowski most recently scored on Oct. 6, 2018. He hadn’t scored in 12 appearances since and last started during the club’s 5-0 loss to LAFC on March 30, which dropped the Quakes to 0-4-0. Since the start of April, Wondo hadn’t played more than 29 minutes in a match.
Danny Hoesen, eight years Wondo’s junior, was placed into the starting lineup on April 6. The reigning team MVP with 12 goals last season, Hoesen was critical in the team’s 3-0 win over Portland that day, playing 90 minutes and scoring his first of the season. Since that day, Hoesen has had a stranglehold on the Quakes’ center-forward position, helping the team to a 3-2-2 stretch after that 0-4-0 start.
Head coach Matias Almeyda made numerous comments early in the season about experimenting with the lineup until something clicked. Since that win on April 6, very little has changed from week-to-week besides necessary adjustments due to suspensions and injuries.
Saturday likely would have been no different, despite the recent loss in New England. Midfielder Cristian Espinoza was returning from his one-game suspension and the rest of the team was healthy and ready to go. Then, 24 hours prior to kickoff, Hoesen picks up a thigh injury in training and is ruled out the morning of the game.
“It was very unfortunate for Danny to suffer a bit of an injury yesterday, it happened in practice and he wasn’t sure if he was able to go,” recalled Wondolowski after the match. “I think Danny has been playing unbelievable.
“It’s always fun to get the start and I didn’t necessarily know until he had a pregame test and wasn’t able to go today. I’m always ready, always ready to go. I know my role. I know my job in that sense.”
Wondolowski, making his first start in 49 days, stepped up to the plate and scored four goals, becoming just the second player in MLS to accomplish the feat since 2009.
The Chicago Fire entered Saturday on the heels of three consecutive shutouts, including a scoreless road draw against LAFC. The Fire had allowed four goals in their previous seven matches combined, a total Wondolowski would equal by the 76th minute.
“I can’t say it because it’s going to seem odd to you guys…” explained Almeyda during his postgame press conference, “but I was speaking to [translator Agustin Zalazar] and somebody else on the coaching staff, and I said, ‘maybe he’ll score four goals today.’ “
What Almeyda will choose to do when Hoesen returns to full health is unknown, but you can bet that Wondolowski will be ready to add to his goal tally and help the team win in any way he can.