After rising from relative obscurity and capturing the MLS Golden Boot award following a breakthrough 2010 season, forward Chris Wondolowski was rewarded with a freshly minted contract that saw his compensation package increase nearly four-fold. Maintaining the excellence on display in 2010 with an equally impressive 2011 campaign that saw Wondolowski edged out for a second successive Golden Boot by MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, the San Jose Earthquakes star has again received a new contract and a healthy bump in salary. While details of Wondolowski’s new contract were not released by the club or by MLS, reports have the deal guaranteed through 2014 with options that extend through 2016.
In an otherwise bleak 2011 season at Buck Shaw Stadium, Wondolowski was the focus of attention for fans of the San Jose Earthquakes. The persistent chatter that dogged Wondo focused on whether the unheralded forward could come close to repeating his scoring feats of 2010. The cliché “one hit Wondo” was bandied around to explain away his remarkable Golden Boot season. That the Quakes front office chose in early 2011 to tear up the freshly minted four-year contract that had only seen one year completed in order to fashion the new deal made some question the wisdom of the organization. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that Wondo deserved to be paid more than the paltry $48,000 annual salary reported in MLS Players Union documents, but were the Earthquakes overreaching financially in crafting the new deal?
In short, the bump in guaranteed compensation to $175,000 per season according to MLSPU documents was both a shrewd financial deal for the team in terms of fending off potential suitors for Wondolowski’s services and in terms of rewarding the emerging face of the franchise for all his contributions. The start of 2011 saw the young forward get called into then head coach Bob Bradley’s U.S. Men’s National Team training camp. In late January he earned his first cap with the National Team in a friendly against Chile. By late spring, Wondolowski was part of the squad that finished runners-up in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. And all the while, he was taking to his duties as The Man in San Jose with an array of early season goals.
A summer slump by the Earthquakes saw the team drift out of the MLS playoffs chase, but Wondolowski turned on his goal scoring prowess to nearly will the team back into contention. Over the last couple months, Wondo slowly climbed to the top of the MLS scoring chart — back to the hallowed ground he the previous season seemed fortunate to visit. By the last weekend of the season, Wondolowski came within the width of the crossbar at Buck Shaw Stadium of capturing his second successive MLS Golden Boot award in a season ending win over FC Dallas. Instead, the “one hit Wondo” had to settle for a share of the scoring lead with DC United’s Dwayne De Rosario and the loss of the Golden Boot on the assists tiebreaker.
Almost as soon as the final whistle blew to end the 2011 Earthquakes campaign, the whispers began as to whether the now proven MLS forward would look to make his mark overseas. More so than the year before, rumor mills churned with possible destinations for the 28-year old striker. Even with the big bump in salary Wondolowski received following his breakthrough 2010 season, would the lure of foreign money be strong enough to pry the Bay Area native away from the Earthquakes?
Fortunately for Earthquakes supporters, the front office again saw fit to reward their star for his efforts, and by December seemed ready to follow the script from the year before and raise Wondolowski’s compensation into the league-wide upper echelons of salary. Following a delay in negotiations brought about by Wondo’s second straight U.S. Men’s National Team January training camp, the Earthquakes came through with a deal that could see the now 29-year old forward patrolling the offensive line for the next five seasons.
Wondolowski brought down the house with his 2010 performance on the soccer field, and he followed that up with an epic encore in 2011. Now, with a new contract in hand that justifiably puts him in the same financial bracket as other members of the MLS Best XI, Wondolowski is ready and focused for the next act in his remarkable career. And for the fans of the San Jose Earthquakes, they will be fortunate to have front row seats to see what their Bay Area local son has in store for them next.
(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)