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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Chris Wondolowski

Timeless wonder with another strong campaign.

Los Angeles FC v San Jose Earthquakes

2020 was the first season in over a decade in which Chris Wondolowski scored fewer than 10 goals. And yet, I think it’s safe to say the season was a real triumph for him.

Once again, Wondo started the season as a bench option for Matias Almeyda, the icon announcing this would be his final season as a player, and to an extent, the head coach looking to limit the veteran’s minutes. While it had been jarring at first to see Wondo on the bench going back a couple years, it’s not altogether smart to have him play 90 minutes every time out.

And yet, the San Jose Earthquakes have yet to find a real succession plan at forward in that time. To an extent, there is a sense of deference in not wanting to push a legend out the door, but it’s pretty obvious the team has tried to bring in players to take some of the scoring burden, from Danny Hoesen and Vako and Andy Rios, among others, and none have actually shown anything close to the production of Wondolowski.

So 2020 began with Wondo as a bench option again, the all-time leading scorer in MLS able to bring a fearsome sub option for San Jose, and see if Hoesen, Vako, Rios, Carlos Fierro or anyone else would emerge. Spoiler alert: They didn’t, in terms of production.

Wondo was a sub through the MLS is Back Tournament, and scored three goals in Orlando in helping the Earthquakes reach the quarterfinals. Maybe this plan was working out?

But again, no one else was picking up the slack through the first hour of games. The Quakes were goal-shy. Then after the local return to play, San Jose struggled to find any goals or results, and one of the changes that came along the way was putting Wondo back in the lineup.

It worked.

Here’s Wondo’s stats in 2020:

Chris Wondolowski 2020 Earthquakes Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 22 13 1,275 7 1 31 19 1 0
MiB Knockouts 2 0 39 1 0 1 1 1 0
Playoffs 1 1 120 1 0 4 2 0 0
Total 25 14 1,434 9 1 36 22 2 0

By his lofty standards, nine goals in 25 games is off Wondo’s career peak pace, but even with Rios coming on and notching five goals on the season to get remotely close, Wondolowski’s goal tally was by far the best on the team, again.

Two vintage performances down the stretch demonstrated he still had it. With San Jose chasing a playoff spot, they faced Real Salt Lake in a game in which basically only one team would emerge with a chance of getting to the postseason, and Wondo scored a brace to give the Quakes the upper hand.

And then in the playoffs, San Jose absolutely took Sporting Kansas City to the brink. It was very much a team effort, a high point in Almeyda’s run with the club even despite the ultimate result, but Wondolowski’s goal to take the game to extra time was another legendary “Never say die” moment in the club’s history.

All in all, even if he didn’t get to double-digit goals on the season, 2020 absolutely showed that Wondo very much still had it. He said he was going to retire, but if he still felt like he could keep going, the results showed he could still move back and forth between a starter and sub and produce. And the Quakes still relied on his goals.

So it was good news when Wondolowski re-upped for another season during the holidays. He turned 38 last month, but he has made adjustments to take better care of his body — a feature last season indicated he was watching what he ate, which was noticeable to an extent on the field. He’s trying to squeeze every last ounce of effort out of what’s left of his career, which is great to see.

And for now, the Earthquakes still haven’t found another forward to spell Wondo, although surely they’ll hope Chofis Lopez scores goals in 2021. But if there isn’t a big leap from the likes of Cade Cowell, if the club doesn’t sign a proven scorer to finally be the succession plan in the long run, then who knows, maybe Wondolowski will be leading the line more often than not in 2021 before he rides into the sunset. You wouldn’t bet against him on that, would you? I certainly wouldn’t.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.