San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski being carried off the field he broke the all-time MLS record for goals on May 18, 2019.—Courtesy of the San Jose Earthquakes.
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE—The greatest goal scorer in MLS history had his swan song.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski announced his retirement from the game of soccer to a crowd of 17,075 after his team played its final match of the season to a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas on Sunday afternoon at Pay Pal Park.
What was supposed to happen last year in 2020, finally happened after a career that spanned 17 years. Wondolowski originally intended to have 2020 be his final year in soccer but due to the Covid-19 pandemic that postponed the season for four months and then returned with no fans allowed inside the stadiums, he wanted to play one more full season with the fans in attendence.
Wondo, 38, finished his storied career as the MLS leader in goal with 171, 26 more than any other MLS player (Landon Donovan-145) and 413 games played, including 376 appearances for San Jose, most in club history and third most in MLS history.
He also holds the MLS records for combined regular season and playoff goals (173), goals for one club (167), game-winning goals (46), and goals in 1-0 victories (14), while ranking second in multi-goal games (25) and tied for second in hat-tricks (5).
As for the match, it was only fitting that Wondolowski scored a goal in his final game. His goal broke the ice for San Jose (10-13-11) in the 34th minute. Marcos Lopez sent in a low cross into the box where Wondo one-timed a perfect volley into the left corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
FC Dallas (7-15-12) had a chance to even the game late in the half when Quakes goalie Daniel Vega, who made his only start of the season, collided with Jáder Obrian inside the box and was whistled for a penalty by referee Victor Rivas.
However Ricardo Pepi’s penalty attempt in the 40th minute hit off the cross bar and was cleared away by the Quakes as FC Dallas weren’t able to generate a second opportunity.
FC Dallas scored the equalizer two minutes later. Jesus Ferreira’s clearing attempt out of his own zone caught San Jose’s backline flatfooted as it led to a breakaway from Obrian. The 26 year native of Colombia dribbled in and chipped the ball past Vega for his ninth goal of the season in the 42nd minute.
Each team had chances in the final 10 minutes of the match to score the game winning goal but none of the attempts were successful.
Vega didn’t make a save on the one shot on target his faced. FC Dallas goalie Jimmy Maurer made six saves on seven shots as each keeper earned a draw.
For Wondolowski, he wanted to make his announcement in front of the Quakes faithful to give them a chance to say goodbye to him on the pitch one final time.
“I wanted to do this in front of fans instead of in front of a bunch of cameras,” said Wondolowski as he address the crowd. I wanted to do this in front of you because you guys have been there from day one. This is the last run. I told myself I would cry, and I knew that tears would be coming, but thank you guys. It’s been an amazing ride. I can’t thank you guys enough. It starts with my teammates and literally the league. These guys have been there, in the locker room, practices and the battles. I’ve got to thank my family and everyone here. There are more people than I can count, many Wondolowskis, mom, dad. I got my wife and two girls and a little one on the way.”
Wondo couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion as he talked to the crowd and how much each of them meant to him during his career.
“The cool thing is that I get to do this with my hometown team,” the native of Danville continued. “Thank you guys for this wonderful ride. Thank you for being a part of me, pushing me on. I can’t thank you guys enough. This organization is going to do big things. I can’t wait for it, and we’ll be here for the future. Thank you to the fans. From Faultline to Epicenter, the Ultras and everyone here. I can’t thank you guys enough. You guys mean the world.”
Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda had this to say about his time with Wondo over the past three years.
“I enjoyed coaching him. We have an excellent relationship in the humane and sporting aspect. He has been a great professional. A goal scorer is leaving and it is difficult to replace goal scorers, especially him. Hopefully, our young players have recognized the path Chris has taken and follow it. Chris leaves a huge legacy behind, which is the nicest thing to leave behind. Many leave titles, many leave huge numbers, but he leaves a special legacy as the all-time leading scorer. With time, he and many others will realize how important that is,” Almeyda said.
Wondlowski, whose MLS career began in 2005 as a fourth-round Supplemental Draft pick out of Chico State, took home Golden Boot presented by Audi honors during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. A five-time MLS All-Star and three-time Best XI selection, he also was named the league’s MVP in 2012.
The Quakes have a lot of questions to be answered during the off season such as who will be the next general manager? Will Almeyda return as head coach? Does he want to return? Will the team continue with its youth movement or will they look to acquire veteran talent both domestic and international?
Those questions will have answers to them later on as the offseason progresses.
But today was all about the celebration of Bay Area soccer legend Chris Wondolowski who hung up his cleats one last time.