The Earthquakes had just tied the game against the Crew through Justin Morrow's equalizing golazo, and a counterattack looked destined to earn San Jose a second straight comeback victory. Adam Jahn elected to thread a forward pass to Sam Garza advancing on the right wing instead of forcing a ball to Chris Wondolowski -- who appeared to be in an offside position -- on the left. Garza advanced the ball into the Columbus penalty area, and with just goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to beat, sent a shot across the goalmouth that missed just wide of the far post. Opportunity lost for the Quakes.
But Garza had the option to send a pass across the top of the six yard box for Wondolowski tiptoeing the offside line. A successful cross from the Quakes second year midfielder would have presented Wondo with what could best be described as a tap-in at the far post for the potential game winning goal. Opportunity lost for the Quakes.
Moments after Garza's shot sailed wide of the target, Wondolowski skipped into the net and turned in disgust toward Garza. In clear fashion as seen in the following video, Wondo proceeds to dress down his teammate with politely could be called a provocative tirade. A brief glimpse of Garza looking somewhat bewildered then leads to a close-up of Wondolowski expressing himself in a very intense manner. Opportunity lost for the Quakes.
The behavior exhibited by Wondolowski was not an isolated incident. Since the start of the season, the Earthquakes designated player has directed much more vocal energy at those around him than in previous seasons. Wondolowski has always been very hard on himself -- a self-motivating technique perhaps? -- but not to the level seen in 2013. It has not gone unnoticed, and in the match last week again the New York Red Bulls earned a yellow card for vocal dissent.
I think he is such a competitor," said head coach Frank Yallop following the match against the Red Bulls when asked about the apparent elevation in Wondolowski's frustration. "I've been around Wondo for a number of years and he is ultra-competitive and he gets mad when he doesn't help the team out by scoring, and I think he was p-ed off last week that he didn't get those chances put away. His aggression and frustrations turn into good things because he got the winning goal tonight. Chris wants to do well for his teammates because he is the goal scorer and he feels bad if he doesn't score a goal."
Specifically on the yellow card for berating the referee, Yallop did not seem concerned at all.
"No, I like that actually," said Yallop. "though I shouldn't say that."
When Wondolowski was asked during his locker room interview with reporters about the incident and his general level of intensity , he was very frank with his comments.
"Yeah, I am a definitely a fiery guy and it wasn't necessarily going our way," said Wondolowski, "but I just wanted to spur me on and I always want the best for us. It was one of those things, we kept knocking on the door but we just couldn't find the back of the net. It was one of those releases when it hit the back of the net."
Following the incident chronicled in the video above, the question arose as to whether or not this behavior was out of line.
Wondo really let Garza have it verbally for electing to shoot instead of pass on late #SJEarthquakes scoring chance. Was he out of line?— Robert Jonas (@robertjonas) March 17, 2013
Which almost immediately elicited a response from Earthquakes fans and others that were watching the broadcast.
@robertjonas you say "passion" I say he's acting like an idiot!Losing a lot of fans, I'm sure!— Diane Guymon (@Dsguymon) March 16, 2013
@robertjonas He's showing a bit of Keane-itis, isn't he?— Matthew Doyle (@MLS_Analyst) March 16, 2013
@robertjonas there's a diff between getting caught up in the heat of the moment and going too far. Wondo should have handled it better.— Danielle (@dc_oshana) March 17, 2013
But others were more lenient toward Wondolowski, with some agreeing that Garza deserved the heat of the moment talking-to.
@robertjonas did Garza score? Then Wondo should call out the sophomore ! A easy pass and score was wastedby his awful shot— Elenes G (@SuperXolo) March 17, 2013
@robertjonas Have to listen to the Captain. Wondo is the leader on the team.— Kris (@1CAvsfann) March 17, 2013
@robertjonas not out of line. garza should've passed it.— mike (@m1spike) March 17, 2013
@robertjonas I agree with Wondo. It could've been the game if he had and If you don't give it up, you should at least put it on target.— Hunter Leach (@quakesnvrsaydie) March 17, 2013
@robertjonas Don't like to see Wondo get so mad, but he was right - easy pass for Garza to make, no defenders in the way, should have passed— Andrea Sennett (@Andreatsenn) March 17, 2013
@robertjonas i think it was bc the shot was off target. wondo's always been the guy to either celebrate you or bear the burden himself— Daniel Gonzalez (@gonzomalan) March 17, 2013
To be clear, it is a personal judgement call whether one believes Wondolowski was right or wrong in his actions following Garza's missed scoring opportunity. Unfortunately, a lot was said in the heat of the moment, and it was all on display for those in attendance at Crew Stadium and watching along at home on television. Still, the measure of success in professional sports is winning, so does this constitute good or bad behavior in that pursuit. In other words: Was Chris Wondolowski out of line?