CARSON, Calif. – There is no secret to the San Jose Earthquakes’ success this season. With the highest-scoring offense in MLS and their penchant for late-game drama Frank Yallop’s squad is on the verge of clinching the Supporters’ Shield for the league’s best regular season record only one year after finishing in seventh place in the Western Conference and missing the playoffs.
Playing a major role in the Earthquakes’ rebirth this year is Chris Wondolowski, the all-but-certain winner of this year’s MLS Golden Boot for the most goals scored during the regular season. Wondolowski enters Sunday’s game with a career-high 25 goals, eight more than Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio with two games remaining in the regular season.
Wondolowski is just two goals shy of the MLS single-season record for goals of 27, set by the Tampa Bay Mutiny’s Roy Lassiter in 1996.
Columbus’ Stern John and Tampa Bay’s Mamadou Diallo had 26 in 1998 and 2000, respectively.
The LA Galaxy know all about Wondolowski’s goal-scoring exploits, having seen him score a game-winner against them earlier this season, and they’ll see him up close and personal again on Sunday at 4 p.m. (Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Galavision, AM 1150, 1330 AM, LIVE CHAT) at San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium.
“This isn’t an accident,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after training on Thursday. “This isn’t a guy that popped up and is having a big year. He’s consistently been a good goal scorer. All the credit to him.”
The 29-year-old Wondolowski originally was drafted 41st overall by the Earthquakes in 2005 but saw little, if any, playing time over the next several seasons. It wasn’t until he returned to San Jose, after playing in Houston from 2006 until midway through the 2009 campaign, that his career took off. He led MLS in goals in 2010 – in a season-long battle with the Galaxy’s Edson Buddle that went down to the final game of the regular season – and had 16 goals a year ago.
“He’s a great player, he’s like a shark in the box,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said. “He sniffs everything out. He’s going to be a tough task, but our team’s up for it.”
Franklin, asked what Wondolowski does particularly well, praised his movement.
“One moment he’s there, the next he’s on your back side,” Franklin said. “You’ve got to be aware of where he’s running and have to make sure he doesn’t get a clear run toward the goal. He shoots from wherever.”
Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez did not play in either of the teams’ previous meetings this season while he recovered from offseason knee surgery, but he is well aware of Wondolowski’s prowess at putting the ball in the back of the net.
Gonzalez also praised Wondolowski’s penchant for getting into prime scoring territory.
“He just seems to get himself in the right positions,” he said. “Each year he keeps getting better and better. He’s putting up the numbers and you can’t not give the guy credit.
“He works hard. You always have to keep an eye on him.”