All hail the new goal king.
Chris Wondolowski broke Major League Soccer’s all-time scoring record Saturday afternoon, passing Landon Donovan’s mark of 146 career goals. He scored the record-breaking goal 27 minutes after tying Donovan’s record, which had stood since 2014, one of his four goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire.
Matt Doyle and Bobby Warshaw discuss Wondolowski’s achievement, and his lasting legacy, below.
BW: Of course that’s how it happens. The perfect way for Wondo to break the record.
MD: Poachers gonna poach. But it just goes to show that if you keep your engine running and stay on your toes, you can and will find goals. How many super-talented forwards don’t bother following through right there, and don’t put pressure on poor David Ousted, and just assume he’s going to catch that clean because, 99 times out of 100, he does?
(Editor’s Note: Don’t take it from these two guys who combined for 1 career MLS goal. Take it from the man himself, who gave this quote after this article was published:)
If you’re the type of guy to break records, you’re the type of guy who doesn’t take for granted that the goalkeeper should always make that play. You’re the one on the doorstep in case he doesn’t.
Can’t think of a more appropriate goal for Wondo to set the record with.
BW: I was actually thinking bigger there. You’re right that it’s totally a “Wondo goal” – right place, right time, calm in the critical moment.
But that goal is about the word “opportunity” for me. Wondo waited so long to get his chance on the field. He didn’t get a run of starts for over five years. But when he got them, he crushed it. He seized the moment.
How many other players have taken their opportunity like that?
How many players would have kept working for five years until they got that opportunity?
The guy who is now the all-time leading scoring Major League Soccer, ahead of freaking Landon Donovan, wasn’t a prodigy. He wasn’t even drafted in the SuperDraft – he was the 41st pick of the 2005 Supplemental Draft, the 89th selection overall. It took five years for coaches to put him on the field on a regular basis.
You never know when you’re going to get your chance; you never know when the goalkeeper is going to drop the ball in front of you. You keep showing up and you keep working and you just make sure you’re ready when the ball shows up at your feet.
MD: And then, because you’re Wondo, you score two more.
BW: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? We were sitting in the office the last few weeks wondering if he was going to get even one this year. He had fallen out of the starting lineup; he didn’t seem to fit, much less excel, in Matias Almeyda’s style. But if you watched him Saturday afternoon, you wouldn’t have known that he’s been out of the team. He had the same energy, the same fervor to his bubble-gum chewing, the same naive optimism around the box.
If you don’t watch Chris Wondolowski and feel like there’s more possible in your life, then you’re not getting the full experience.
MD: Yeah, he’s an amazing story of perseverance. There’s a Horatio Alger angle to his whole career, right down to bagging four goals in front of his home fans for his hometown team on the day he set the record. It’s a fairy tale in a lot of ways.
I don’t want this to obscure a point that I’ve tried (and mostly failed) to make over the years as well: Wondo is a very good soccer athlete in large part because he is exceptionally balanced. How many tap-ins has he scored off bad bounces that would’ve got caught up in another striker’s feet? “Dozens” is probably selling it short.
The one I think about all the time is the one he scored in the 2012 All-Star Game – which, yes, came in the middle of his best season as a pro:
First of all: great run! Second of all, look at how quickly he kills his momentum, gets his feet under him and is able to slot that home. That is an exceptional bit of athleticism, and I don’t think he’s ever been properly appreciated on that level because he is neither quick nor fast nor big nor strong. He lacks “loud component” athleticism, which is one of the biggest reasons he was overlooked in the first place.
I hope one of his legacies is that we, as a soccer culture, do a better job of identifying the things – mental, emotional, physical – that create a player like Wondo.
BW: I’m kinda mad at you for bringing in the soccer-specific side of this. Don’t try to talk to me about movement in the box when this dude who went to a Division II college and only had 10 starts in his first five seasons is now the league’s all-time leading scorer. That story goes way beyond any Football Manager attributes.
But, ultimately, you’re right. And it’s an important message. Wondo is a soccer player in all the subtle ways that make great soccer players, and we need to be better at noticing, developing and harnessing those details.
MD: Should we list his accomplishments? I feel like we should:
- 2010 Golden Boot, MLS Best XI
- 2011 MLS All Star, MLS Best XI
- 2012 MLS All Star, Golden Boot, MLS Best XI, MVP
- 2013 MLS All Star, Gold Cup Golden Boot
- 2016 MLS All Star
- MLS record nine straight seasons of double-digit goals
On a team level, he won the 2012 Supporters’ Shield and the 2013 Gold Cup, and he has two MLS Cup titles – back in 2006 and 2007 with the Dynamo, when he was grinding through games in the old MLS reserve league.
BW: Just want to repeat that last sentence to finish up: “When he was grinding through the old MLS reserve league.” Chris Wondolowski: the first ever DP to DP – Developmental Player to Designated Player.
And, now, the all-time scoring leader in MLS.