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Wondo embarks on 14th MLS season chasing Donovan’s record

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Early in his 14th season in Major League Soccer, Chris Wondolowski no doubt knows the question is coming.

About Landon Donovan. About the record. And about whether he’ll break it.

“I hope so, that would be pretty cool,” Wondolowski said.

Donovan holds the career MLS scoring record with 145 goals. Wondolowski is just 10 goals from matching him. Wondo, as he is known, has already scored a goal this season for the San Jose Earthquakes, the team he’s played for since 2009.

“If we’re successful and get some wins, I’ll be able to get some chances, at least,” he said, referring to the prospects of catching Donovan this season.

Recent history is on Wondolowski’s side. He’s scored 12 or more goals in each of the last eight seasons. He led the Earthquakes last year with 13 goals and eight assists.

Wondolowski and Donovan faced off last weekend in San Jose when Donovan’s new team, Leon, visited the Earthquakes in an exhibition match. Donovan scored the lone goal in the 1-0 victory for the Liga MX team.

There was some history there. Donovan played for the Earthquakes for four seasons, leading the team to MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003. Quakes fans were dismayed when Donovan signed with the rival LA Galaxy and went on to win four more MLS Cup championships with Los Angeles.

Donovan smiled when he was asked about the record. He said the ego part of him doesn’t want his record broken, but his heart wants Wondolowski to break it.

“When you look at Wondo’s career and how he’s done it, it’s incredible. For five or six or seven years he didn’t really play. And then all of the sudden he came on to the scene and he scored 15, 18, 20, 25 goals a year for however many years now,” Donovan said. “He deserves it. It’s going to happen at some point and it’s a credit to how hard he’s worked.”

Donovan, who has retired from MLS twice, signed with Leon in January.

After the friendly, Wondolowski and Donovan exchanged jerseys .

“We definitely enjoy joking around,” Wondolowski said. “He told me to go break it (the record) and get as many as I can, and I told him he should come back and keep playing in MLS, as long as he comes back to the Earthquakes. He’s always been a really kind man and it was nice to see him.”

For now, Wondolowski appears focused on the Earthquakes, not the record.

San Jose went 13-14-7 last season, which appeared turbulent for the club. Coach Dominic Kinnear was dismissed in June and replaced by technical director Chris Leitch. Despite the upheaval, San Jose returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 but fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the knockout round.

The Quakes hired new coach Mikael Stahre in November and opened this season with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United. They fell 3-2 in the second match against Sporting Kansas City but Wondolowski scored in stoppage time, giving him 135 goals and moving him into sole possession of second place on the career list, 10 back of Donovan.

Wondolowski has played in MLS since 2005, when he was taken by the Earthquakes in the supplemental draft. He moved with the team to Houston in 2006 before getting traded to the new incarnation of the Quakes in 2009.

His best season for MLS came in 2012 when he had 27 goals, a league record that he still shares with two other players.

Wondolowski has played 35 games with the U.S. national team, including two at the 2014 World Cup. He has 11 international goals, but he is perhaps most remembered for the one he missed – a potential game winner against Belgium at the World Cup that went over the crossbar late in regulation.

He was on the roster for the U.S. team that lost to Trinidad and Tobago last fall, which effectively eliminated the Americans from this summer’s World Cup. He called the defeat devastating.

But as an MLS veteran, Wondolowski is excited about the growth he’s seen in the league. Despite his team’s loss to Leon, he sees the league as steadily gaining on Liga MX. Indeed, the progress has had tangible results in the CONCACAF Champions League, where a pair of MLS teams – Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls – advanced to the semifinals with victories over Mexican league opponents.

“I think it’s been amazing, it’s been leaps and bounds. The league itself has grown – you see the talent that’s out there on the field and the product itself,” he said. “And the Earthquakes themselves, how the club has progressed since 2005. It’s cool to see.”

Wondolowski to donate 1 percent, joins Common Goal fraternity

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Chris Wondolowski, you’re entering high-five country.

Wondolowski, 34, is coming off a fine season with San Jose in which he netted double-digit goals for the eighth-straight season while adding a career-high eight assists.

[ MORE: USWNT tops Canada ]

He’s also turning the page on the season with class, joining the Juan Mata-led Common Goal movement. Wondolowski will donate at least one percent of his salary to “high-impact soccer charities.”

Wondo joins a list which includes Premier League veterans Alfie Mawson and Charlie Daniels, international stars Giorgio Chiellini and Mats Hummels, and USWNT stars Alex Morgan, Heather O’Reilly, and Megan Rapinoe.

From SJEarthquakes.com:

“I want to look back on my career and be able to say I had an impact both on and off the pitch,” Wondolowski said. “To me, this not only means winning trophies but also doing my bit to advance the use of soccer as a tool for social change. This is something I’ve been passionate about for a long time and through Common Goal I can now join forces with other players who feel the same way.”

Wondo’s 13-goal season gives him 134 in 293 games, and the Californian is likely to end his career in MLS as the league’s all-time leading scorer. He’s currently 11 goals behind Landon Donovan.

Chris Wondolowski thankful for call-up to national team

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Wondolowski didn’t have to travel far when he got the call to join the U.S. national team ahead of two key World Cup qualifiers.

The U.S. will be playing Honduras on the home field of Wondolowski’s San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night as the Americans look to bounce back from an 0-2 start in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

“To represent your country is the ultimate pinnacle, especially as a soccer player in a World Cup qualifier in your hometown,” Wondolowski said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I’m very excited. I’m very honored to be a part of such a big game. It’s not necessarily the place we want to be, but it is an exciting place for U.S. Soccer right now. We have meaningful games in meaningful places.”

And Wondolowski might need to play a meaningful role with the U.S. short-handed at forward headed into the games against Honduras and then at Panama next Tuesday. Bobby Wood is out with a back injury, Jordan Morris has not practiced this week because of an ankle injury and Clint Dempsey said he might not be able to play 90 minutes after missing the final four months of the 2016 MLS season due to an irregular heartbeat.

That leaves just Jozy Altidore and Wondolowski as the only healthy forwards. The 34-year-old Wondolowski didn’t know whether he would get another chance at World Cup qualifying.

He didn’t get his first call-up to the national team until six years ago despite a prolific MLS career. He has played 35 international games, including two at the 2014 World Cup.

Wondolowski has scored 11 goals for the national team, but is most remembered for one he missed in the round of 16 against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup. With the game scoreless late in regulation, he had a chance at a game-winner but shot over the crossbar from inside the 6-yard box.

The U.S. lost 2-1 in overtime and Wondolowski has not played in any 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

“If you play well at the club level, you figure you can get a chance,” he said. “You never know if that will keep happening. You always have to cherish the times that you have.”

Wondolowski has done that by scoring 28 goals the past two seasons for the Earthquakes and one so far this season in three games. He doesn’t know if he will get a chance to play but has already been a valuable resource for his familiarity with the home stadium.

“They’ve been asking me about the field, the atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t have enough adjectives to tell them how great it is. The atmosphere you feel, the presence that the crowd provides throughout the game will lift you. It’s an amazing pitch, amazing fans, and hopefully we can get three points.”

After the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica last November that led to coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s firing and the return of Bruce Arena as coach, the U.S. has little margin for error.

The Americans are in last place in the six-team group that will send the top three teams to Russia in 2018 and the fourth into a playoff with the fifth-place nation from Asia.

“Some games you go in and you’re trying to implement things and work on your style,” Wondolowski said. “We’re worried about three points. Pretty, ugly, it doesn’t matter. Just grind it out any way possible.”

MLS (late-night) roundup: HOU hammer CLB; MTL blow late lead to SEA

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo
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With two MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 32 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Houston Dynamo 3-1 Columbus Crew SC

If you don’t know about the #BabyDynamo, it’s time you familiarize yourself with Wilmer Cabrera’s young (average age of attacking players used on Saturday: 23.4), attack-minded (five goals scored through two games) side. Erick (no longer “Cubo”) Torres has two goals in two games after his stunner completed Saturday’s rout of Columbus; Romell Quioto is the early leader in the clubhouse for Newcomer of the Year after bagging his second in two games; and Alberth Elis looked far more comfortable in his second MLS game, tallying his first goal since arriving in the offseason.

Ola Kamara notched Columbus’s consolation goal, his first of 2017, late into second-half stoppage time.

Montreal Impact 2-2 Seattle Sounders

Seattle’s MLS Cup hangover continued, for 60 minutes at least, as Montreal raced out to a comfortable 2-0 lead on the hard, bouncy artificial playing surface at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Ignacio Piatti’s inch-perfect through ball set up Matteo Mancosu for the game’s opening goal in the 17th minute, but it Piatti’s individual effort, racing 50 yards with the ball at his feet before firing past Stefan Frei from 20 yards out, six minutes after halftime which stole the spotlight until very late on.

Jordan Morris went down to win a penalty for Seattle with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, and Nicolas Lodeiro converted to make it 2-1. Montreal held their slender margin deep into stoppage time, but Will Bruin, having entered the game just eight minutes earlier, turned home a loose ball from five yards out to snatch the defending champions’ first point of 2017.

[ MORE: MLS (afternoon) roundup — Chicago’s on Fire; Giovinco injured ]

San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

From 2-0 down after 17 minutes, to a man up after 23 minutes, to 3-2 up after 79 minutes — just like that — San Jose are level with Houston for the Western Conference’s top spot.

Erik Hurtado and Nicolas Mezquida put the visitors ahead early on, but David Ousted got himself sent off for taking down Chris Wondolowski in the open field, and the comeback was on. Wondolowski pulled one back just after the half-hour mark, before notching the assist on Nick Lima’s first MLS goal nine minutes after halftime, and Anibal Godoy made it 3-2 with 11 minutes of regular time remaining.

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 FC Dallas

With FCD opting to field a largely second-team squad (CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first leg on Wednesday), Sporting KC enjoyed over 68 percent of the game’s possession, as the defending Supporters’ Shield winners — average age of 14 players used on Saturday: 24.1 — proved too well-drilled and disciplined to allow a clear-cut scoring chance all night. Oscar Pareja leads the “play your kids” movement, and with very good reason: they’re an extremely talented, mature bunch.

Elsewhere in MLSAFTERNOON ROUNDUP

Chicago Fire 2-0 Real Salt Lake
New York Red Bulls 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Philadelphia Union 2-2 Toronto FC

Cuba 0-2 USA: Wondo, Green tally in USMNT’s ugly win in Cuba

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Chris Wondolowski and Julian Green got the goals as the U.S. national team picked up an ugly, choppy victory in Cuba on Friday, the first time the senior squad played a game on Cuban soil since 1947.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

For the most part, the Yanks escaped the bumpy, cratered field at the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana without incident. Christian Pulisic was clattered by hard challenges on numerous occasions in the first half, and was subbed off after 45 minutes. Steve Birnbaum was less fortunate, as the D.C. United defender received studs to the top of his head, opening up a gushing wound with 10 minutes left to go in the game.

All three of the USMNT’s first-half shots on target came via Green, a surprise inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup. The best of the bunch played out in the 23rd minute, when the Bayern Munich youngster broke down the left flank, cut into the penalty area, cut back toward the end line, and fired a left-footed shot low, but right at Cuban goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez, who made the kick save with the ball headed for the far post.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from USA 2-0 Cuba ]

Cuba nearly opened the scoring long after, in the 28th minute, Roberney Caballero unleashed a speculative effort from from outside the penalty area. The ball looked headed for the inside of the far post, but 21-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, the youngest player to start in goal for the USMNT since 1994 (Zach Thornton), which occurred before Horvath was born, got fingertips to the ball and pushed it wide.

Maikel Reyes went inches from giving Cuba the lead just before the hour mark. The Cruz Azul striker raced down the right side of the field and into the penalty area, where he unloaded on Horvath with a shot to the near post, but came up with only woodwork as the ball clanged off the inside of the post and shot across the face of goal behind an unknowing Horvath.

[ MORE: All the news, info surrounding Bob Bradley’s Swansea appointment ]

Three minutes later, in the 62nd, the Yanks were on the scoreboard. Green cut inside from the left wing to fire a right-footed shot at Sanchez, who made the initial save. The rebound, unfortunately for Sanchez, fell right to the feet of Wondolowski, who hammered the ball into an empty net for the 11th goal of his international career.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo hammers An-four-a in goal-scoring blitz ]

Green grabbed a goal of his own — deservedly so, it must be said — to make it 2-0 in the 71st minute. It was Wondolowski who provided the assist, a simple cross across the face of goal with Green in all alone at the back post.

The USMNT’s final game before its World Cup qualifying showdown with Mexico, in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 11, will be a friendly against New Zealand at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., (8 p.m. ET) on Tuesday.