Chris Wondolowski has broken plenty of Major League Soccer goalscoring records and, as a striker, he naturally keeps track of them. Appearances records sneak up on him, though, and it was a surreal moment for the striker when he became the most capped San Jose Earthquakes player ever in Saturday night’s victory over the Houston Dynamo.
“It’s still sinking in,” he said.
“I saw my first appearance when I came on and I remember that like it was yesterday. I really do. It’s crazy to think that it was 250 in between there and I remember each one pretty vividly.”
It’s the little things he cherishes the most, like how he got close to a throw-in in his first professional appearance as a late substitute against Chivas, which was the next best thing to actually touching the ball. “I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to put my jersey in the dirty clothes after the game,” he laughed.
He hasn’t lost that youthful enthusiasm at age thirty-four. He’s still the last one out at training and most voracious celebrator in the team. “You can’t even talk about how important he is,” coach Chris Leitch told Quakes Talk. “He is a leader in every sense of the [word]. When your best player and captain is also the guy who works the hardest and stays the longest at training and continues to make the extra defensive run time after time after time…you can’t ask for much more. It’s a pretty humongous record that he broke this evening and it couldn’t happen to a more fitting guy. That’s why he has the record.”
Wondolowski capped the big occasion by celebrating a crucial 1-0 victory over the Dynamo, which took the Quakes into a coveted playoff position, tipping the odds of an eventual playoff berth in their favor for the first time since early July. Danny Hoesen’s first-half strike was the only difference in a tight contest between the two Western Conference competitors.
Chris Leitch would have you believe it’s the spirit of the team that determines their fate but his decision to start Hoesen wide right also appeared to play a huge role in securing victory. The coach admitted that Hoesen has “probably been on the end of a wrong decision on my part of picking another guy over him” but praised his resilience and versatility. Although Hoesen prefers the striker position and left-wing role to playing on the right, his pace suited him for the position.
Leitch also made the key decision to play a back-four over his preferred 3-5-2 formation, which gave the Quakes the defensive solidity to secure the three points. Florian Jungwirth and Jackson Yeuill formed a somewhat unorthodox pairing in the middle but complemented each other’s skill sets. “It’s a good mix,” said Jungwirth, who has been pushing to play higher up the field. “Jackson can play very decent balls in the offense and I can protect him so he has more space and freedom in the offense. It’s always important to have an old guy with a bit of experience next to him.”
Shea Salinas was another key component on the night, with numerous dangerous runs down the wing from his full-back position. Leitch is often reticent to dole out a lot of praise in his post-match press conference but when he really has something to say, he can’t help but chime in after the last question has been asked. Tonight, he offered that “Shea Salinas had a heck of a game.”
He wasn’t wrong. The winger adapted very well to a deeper role, stymying Houston’s pace down the wings, while still finding space to launch attacks as well. Only Marco Ureña’s lackluster finishing denied Salinas an assist on the night and the Quakes could easily have added to their tally. They were forced to work for the victory, though, defending a narrow lead throughout the second half.
“We preached that it was sort of a playoff-esque game and we grinded it out like it was,” said Wondo.