Chris Wondolowski has a lot to celebrate in what is becoming a very memorable 2012 season.
Fans bear witness to massive comeback at Buck Shaw Stadium last night! San Jose Earthquakes score equalizing goal in stoppage time! Players show off their "never-say-die" spirit! Season-long unbeaten streak at The Buck continues!
In a season where the weekly headlines can be cut and paste from such a list as above, the Earthquakes continue to amaze in ways that only the true dreamers could have imagined when training camp broke earlier this year. Sitting top of the table with five games remaining on the schedule, San Jose is on pace to set a whole host of team scoring records. Already at 60 goals on the season, 4 more than in any other year in the franchise’s history, the Earthquakes will be hard-pressed to catch the 1998 Los Angeles Galaxy record of 85 goals. However, a pair more goals to take the total to 62 goals on the year, and San Jose would vault into the top-ten list for most team goals scored in an MLS season.
Certainly a pair of goals not unlike those scored by Chris Wondolowski in Wednesday’s thrilling 2-2 comeback draw with the Portland Timbers would do the trick. Coming off the bench as a substitute in the second half, a rare occasion indeed that has not been witnessed since October 10, 2010 — he scored a hat-trick that evening against Chivas USA — Wondolowski provided 90 minutes of action in his 30 minutes on the field. His 20th and 21st goals of the 2012 season were enough to rescue an otherwise disappointing evening against cellar-dwellers Portland.
Wondolowski's brace also gives him a commanding seven goal advantage over Kenny Cooper and Alvaro Saborio in the race for this year's MLS Golden Boot award — incidentally, the biggest margin of victory in the single-season scoring title came in 2000, when Mamadou Diallo (26) outpaced Ante Razov (18) by 8 goals. Wondolowski's pair of goals was also impressive in that his 21 goals on the season now tie the Earthquakes striker for the 7th best single season scoring output in MLS history.
How impressive is that number? It is the first time since 2002, when Carlos Ruiz posted 24 goals for LA Galaxy and Taylor Twellman 23 for New England, that a player has surpassed 20 goals in an MLS season. Now tied with Eduardo Hurtado’s 1996 total of 21 goals, Wondolowski has an outside chance of catapulting to the top of the list, to the 27 goal standard posted by Roy Lassiter 17 years ago, with an impressive run over the final 5 games of the Earthquakes 2012 season.
Is it even possible that Wondolowski could finish the year as the most prolific single-season scorer ever in the history of MLS? Perhaps the better question to ask is if it is realistic for him to reach that level. To help with the answer, just look back to the last two seasons, when Wondolowski went on late runs of form to vault to the league’s scoring summit.
In 2010, in an impressive home stretch sprint that, including the substitution hat-trick performance mentioned earlier, Wondolowski netted 6 times in San Jose’s final 5 games and overtook LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle for the MLS Golden Boot. Over the same span of games in 2011, Wondolowski repeated the feat with a half-dozen goals and caught MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario for the league lead. It is no certainty that he can do it for a third straight season, but watch out Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski is coming after you.
Put into historical context, if Wondolowski were to catch Lassiter, it would cement the San Jose striker’s status as the most efficient finisher MLS has ever seen. With 62 career goals — 58 as a member of the Earthquakes — Wondolowski sits tied at number 20 on the all-time list with current New York Red Bulls forward Kenny Cooper. Of the 32 players to have scored at least 50 goals in their MLS careers, Wondolowski leads the group with a stunning 0.61 goals per 90 minutes played.
Taking an even closer look at the numbers, remember that Wondolowski in his first 5 seasons as a professional only netted 7 times. The bulk of his output has come in the last 3 seasons. From 2010 to the present, Wondolowski has scored 55 goals in 7343 minutes — a stunning 0.67 goals per 90 minutes. Only Stern John with 44 career MLS goals and a 0.89 G/90min average and Mamadou Diallo with 47 goals and 0.72 G/90min outpace the Earthquakes forward in the MLS top-fifty career scoring list. Wondolowski may not be able to keep that scoring rate up throughout his MLS career, but it safe to say that he deserves his place among the most prolific scorers the league has ever known.
And who knows, keep up his scoring prowess over the last five weeks of the season, and Wondolowski may take home the crowning title of 2012 MLS Most Valuable Player.
MOST GOALS SCORED — SINGLE SEASON TOP-TEN LIST:
1996 — Roy Lassiter, 27
1998 — Stern John, 26
2000 — Mamadou Diallo, 26
2002 — Carlos Ruiz, 24
1996 — Raul Diaz Arce, 23
2002 — Taylor Twellman, 23
2012 — Chris Wondolowski, 21
1996 — Eduardo Hurtado, 21
2008 — Landon Donovan, 20
2007 — Emilio, 20
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES — MOST CAREER GOALS SCORED:
CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI SCORES A BRACE AGAINST THE PORTLAND TIMBERS: