FEATURE: Chris Wondolowski’s 2019 season proves age is just a number

There are nearly 300 American players on Major League Soccer rosters in 2019. Among them exists a blend of high-priced Designated Players (Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Gyasi Zardes, etc.), established veterans (CJ Sapong, Lee Nguyen, Jordan Morris, etc.) and up-and-coming youngsters (Jeremy Ebobisse, Jonathan Lewis, etc.).

None of them scored as many as 36-year-old Chris Wondolowski.

Wondolowski not only led the Earthquakes in scoring for the ninth time in the last 10 years, but he outscored every other player born in the United States and Canada. In fact, only LAFC’s Carlos Vela scored more among players from the 23 countries that make up North America.

Wondolowski’s ability to maintain a torrid goal-scoring pace year after year may never be replicated in MLS again. The combination of durability, capability and adaptability is simply a rarity in Major League Soccer – and sport in general.

Logic seems to tell one story while numbers tell another. He can’t really be successful in one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world, can he? He couldn’t still be effective at 37 years old with all the hefty travel demands, right? Well, Wondo not only hit 10+ goals for the 10th consecutive season in 2019, but he did so for the first time while playing fewer than 2,000 minutes. He also had the third highest goals-per-90-minute average of his illustrious career. Would you really be willing to bet your hard-earned money that Wondo can’t do it again for one more season?

HIGHEST GOALS PER 90 MINUTES, WONDOLOWSKI’S CAREER

Goals Per 90 Min

Season

Goals

Minutes

Age

.864

2012

27

2,813

29

.702

2010

18

2,308

27

.681

2019

15

1,982

36

.539

2011

16

2,672

28

.538

2014

14

2,340

31

 

Head coach Matias Almeyda isn’t guaranteeing a single player, including Wondolowski, a starting role heading into next season. The Danville native will have to compete for playing time like everyone else, but if the past is any indicator of the future, Wondolowski won’t have a problem with that. He made just eight starts in his first four professional seasons – and just never gave up. Now he’s Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer and still kicking them in at a record pace.

Wondolowski also won’t be bothered by his chase for history. Now 14 career goals ahead of Landon Donovan’s former record, he can freely go about his business without a cloud of uncertainty looming at all times.

There will be many storylines to watch as the Quakes head into 2020, but likely none will resonate quite as much as what could be Chris Wondolowski’s final season.

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