Chris Wondolowski

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Wondolowski on CBA, USMNT, MLS-Liga MX merger and more

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Chris Wondolowski’s league-record 159 goals are telling of his dominance. They’re also telling of the 36-year-old’s longevity in a constantly evolving league.

[ PART 1: Wondo on San Jose, USMNT ]

A professional career that started in 2005, will come to an end in 2020, as “Wondo” signed a final one-year contract with the Black-and-Blue.

Throughout the 14-year spell, the league legend has seen it all: from the league paying rookies $12,500 a year, to signing global superstars to monstrous contracts; from a just-surviving 12-team league, to a 24-team league exploring the possibilities of merging with Liga MX.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]  

In part two of a two-part Q&A, ProSoccerTalk spoke to Wondo to discuss the how he’s preparing for the upcoming CBA negotiations, what he believes MLS players need in the new deal, a potential MLS-Liga MX merger, and much more.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the San Jose Earthquakes final regular-season game against the Portland Timbers, and was edited for clarity.


ProSoccerTalk: Earlier this season, Luis Robles from New York Red Bulls talked about possibly housing teammates at his house, depending on what happens with the CBA negotiations. How are you preparing, and how are you preparing other teammates to take on this possible period of no work?

Chris Wondolowski: Yeah, I think one just to educate them on all of the details on it, just to make sure that they know what’s going on, but also to plan for it. You always have to be prepared. Whether it’s financially or where you’re going to live or what you’re going to do. You always have to have a plan, so I think that’s the biggest thing. For the last year or two, we’ve been talking to them. You have to save some money – have a little nest egg. So if things don’t go well in the talks, then you’ll still be prepared, still be ready. I’ll definitely do the same as Luis, if the guys need housing or if they need anything, because I’m staying here no matter what. So they’re more than welcome, and I think that’s important for them to understand the whole situation.

Obviously, the situation is worse given the fact that we’re in San Jose, in the Silicon Valley, right? One of the most expensive regions in the world.

Yeah, and that kind of puts some of the guys behind the eight ball. It’s tough especially if you don’t have income coming in. There’s guys who already have 3-4 roommates and, you know, could be sharing rooms just to get by on a normal rent, a normal apartment. So it’s already tough enough as it is and it doesn’t make things easy, but that’s why you have to plan for it and you can’t just react.

From your perspective, what do players need from these CBA negotiations?

I think that the crucial thing is to keep moving the needle so that the players keep progressing and keep taking this league to the next level. And I think what’s important is what play is out there on the field, and so I think that if the player’s rights and the player’s abilities are what’s top priority, then I think that helps the league. I think that these are some of the things that we are really pushing for and that we really want. In years past, it’s been more financial, whether it’s salary cap or minimum coming in or even DP spots. That’s kind of been in the past, whereas this year it’s been more about player’s rights or how things are going in that sense and not necessarily actual numbers this year.

So, how does a player consider it a win? What does a player need exactly? Is it charter flights? Is it eliminating TAM? Maybe it’s not increasing the salary, or maybe it is?

For it to be a win, I don’t think that there’s going to be just one tangible thing where we got this or we didn’t get this so it’s a loss. Again, it’s just moving the needle more for the player and getting more of their rights across the board. It’s many of these things and you mentioned a few of them, whether it is TAM or if it is the salary cap, things of that nature. I think that definitely does help the players, but there are more across the board that the need to progress in.

I mention charter flights because it’s been a topic of conversation all season long. Has there been an instance that you can think back to where you were like, ‘wow this was a logistical nightmare?’

Oh, yeah. We have a few, especially when you’re on the road when we’re going from Salt Lake to New York City, and we’re flying back from the game and we’re in the airport. I remember two years ago we were going to DC, and I think we were at the airport for 8 hours. Flight got delayed and then the flight got cancelled. It was just an absolute logistical nightmare. We were pretty lucky this year with delays and things of that nature. But I know Montreal had a nightmare. I think New England as well, where they’re arriving to the game and it’s tough. 

Do you think that charter flights will patch up – not resolve but patch up – the logistical problems in MLS?

I mean, yes. The travel is a big aspect, especially being a West Coast team travelling to the East Coast. That’s a six hour flight, and you’re losing three hours as well. It’s a whole day that’s gone that could help. Let alone you have to get there two hours before your flight and you have to wait for your bags, and so you’re adding another four hours or so – not including the flight or the time change. That could definitely help. Is it financially feasible? That’s a tough one. That’s a tough battle, so I think that I don’t expect every leg to be chartered, but I do hope that there is more and that the owners have to use them. We could’ve use charter flights this year and we’ve used zero, so that’s also something that’s in need. I know there’s other teams that have used all of their legs and wished they could have used more, so you have to find that balance as well. 

Earlier this season, Wayne Rooney said that the MLS player was underpaid. From your perspective, does that stand true?

Yeah, absolutely. I do. You can just look across the board. Again, I think that we do well for ourselves. I think that it’s amazing how well it’s moved. But I think for this league there’s too much of the haves and have nots. We have 28 guys, and I’d say probably only six of the guys do well. And then there’s 22 other guys who have to get another job. As you mentioned, we live in the Silicon Valley, so they have to do something else to supplement themselves so that they can stay afloat. Starting in this league, it’s moved an amazing amount, but I still think that there’s more to move.

Houston Dynamo (7) Chris Wondolowski scores against FC Dallas goal keeper (1) Shaka Hislop in US Open Lamar Hunt Cup at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas on August 23, 2006. Houston won 3 to 0. (Photo by Thomas Shea/MLS)

How did you financially keep yourself afloat when you were playing in Houston and were making less than $20,000 a year?

My rookie year, I was making $12,500. I had 3 roommates. But I coached more and I was spending more time on the field coaching than I was at practice. That’s never good. Every day I was out coaching. I coached five days a week. Again, I think it helped mold me, but at the same time, I don’t wish it upon a professional athlete to do that. 

More and more international players are coming into the league, meaning that the chances of the American player stagnating only increase. There’s fears that the U.S. player might stagnate. Do you agree that for the benefit of MLS players, there should be tougher rules placed on the amount of internationals that can come to this league? On the other hand, some people are talking about blowing up the international rule all together. Do you think that the American player needs to be protected?

Yes, I do. I think that MLS and U.S. Soccer need to coexist and one needs the other one. I think MLS needs U.S. Soccer to do well and to help promote the league, and I think U.S. Soccer needs MLS to do well and to help bring up the next American national team player. I do think it needs to be done. I think that we always want the best product out there. So having foreign players, I’m all for that. But I do think we need to still produce, protect and bring up the next American player. I don’t know what the exact fix is or what the exact number of international players you can [have], but I think that it’s a mistake at times to assume that foreign players are better because they’re from another country. The American player – there’s a great need for them. There’s plenty that can bring a great product out there on the field. So I think we should find that balance. And again, you need both. You can’t just have American players out there. You need the foreign – whatever culture it is – and I think it can help produce that as well. 

There’s been a lot of talk about MLS and Liga MX possibly merging. Tournaments like the Leagues Cup are foreshadowing what it can possibly look like in the future. Do you think this is the right move for MLS, to merge with Liga MX?

I’m not sure if merge is the best, but I do think that some of these tournaments [are beneficial] when they’re done the right way. There was a couple glitches in this year’s tournaments that could be ironed out, but I think that it’s a great thing. When we get to face off against each other, whether it’s Champions League or these special tournaments, I think that it’s a great thing and it helps grow MLS, [especially] if they’re playing Mexican side. I think that it helps them learn the game and see a different side of it, so it’s important.

Wondolowski: ‘I want to play for one more year’

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2019 was a once-in-a-lifetime season for Chris Wondolowski – both on a personal and collective level.

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After enduring a 2018 season that took a toll on the San Jose Earthquakes captain “physically” and “mentally,” the 36-year-old etched his name in the history books, becoming the league’s all-time leading goal scorer.

His 15 goals in 32 games played made him the Quakes’ leading goalscorer and tied fifth in the league.

Wondolowski credits coach Matias Almeyda – who described the forward as a true “goalscorer” and a player “who has made history” – and his staff for “reigniting the passion and the love” he feels for the game.

With a memorable season behind him, ProSoccerTalk spoke to “Wondo” to discuss where his future lies, the ebbs and flows at Earthquakes Way over the past two years, the future of the Black-and-Blue and much more in a two-part series.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the San Jose Earthquakes final regular-season game against the Portland Timbers, and was edited for clarity.


ProSoccerTalk: Is Chris Wondolowski returning for a 17th season?

Chris Wondolowski: I hope so. I’m going to re-evaluate, talk with family, talk with the ownership about a contract. But I’ve had so much fun this year. Matias [Almeyda] has helped reignite my love and passion for the game and I would like to do one more year.


Has there been any talks between you and team officials? You haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it?

Yeah, no, we’ve been in talks. We’ve been discussing some things and working out some details. But yeah, I love this organization and I want to represent it. Hopefully, I can get renewed for one more year.


How do you describe this season? Coming into the season, you guys had those first four losses, and at a point in time also, you weren’t racking up any goals. Many were maybe asking if this was the decline of Chris. But then you have that game against the Chicago [Fire], and everything just turns around. How do you describe the season? 

Emotionally, it’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster. Maybe a little anxious coming into preseason, not knowing if my energy, you know, could still hang. I was getting off to a rough start. I wasn’t playing really well. I was playing really poorly and the results were showing that as well. But then I finally just got my footing. The coaching staff have just helped me so much. They’ve pushed me at the right times, they’ve motivated me. But they’ve also helped me relax, helped me just play the game and reminded me that it’s a game and to just enjoy that. And I think that was kind of just the turning point this year: being able to enjoy the game and not being able to just press for goals, press for wins. If you go and execute this game plan, things will happen, and they have.

SAN JOSE, CA – MAY 18: Chris Wondolowski #8 of the San Jose Earthquakes holds the ball that he scored his 146th career goal with during a press conference after a Major League Soccer (MLS) match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire on May 18, 2019 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. (Photo by Maciek Gudrymowicz/isiphotos/Getty Images)

In all fairness, your numbers have been at an elite level for ten years. How long do you think you can play and how long do you think you’ll actually play (two different things)? 

My body feels good. This is pretty cool with all the technology and data that you can collect and this is probably the fastest and some of the strongest times I’ve had. This year I’ve taken a lot more interest in my health and going to the gym, whereas in years past I was just winging it. Going back to that, I think I could play for a couple more years. I think I want to play for one more [year].


Does that keep you up at night: that your mind and your body is probably thinking of the future, but in actuality – just the way that the sport works – that the age next to your name might not allow you to continue on?

Yeah, a little bit. It’s just one of those things where that’s what I love about this game – you have so many different aspects. We have 16-year-olds in this locker room, and we’ve played with Nick Romando and Kyle Beckerman, who are 37 and it’s pretty cool to see that they’re still doing great things. You have guys like Zlatan – who’s 37 – and doing amazing things. So, it’s pretty cool to see that whole spectrum of things. But I also think I was really pretty content on it being my last year. I’m pretty much just taking the approach where I’m enjoying every moment – even preseasons and stuff like that I was enjoying it and taking it all in, road trips and things like that. But I always thought that there was just going to be a day where I was going to come in and things weren’t going to be fun, but that’s definitely not the case. I love coming into practice. It’s fun hanging out with these guys, so that’s why I’m probably going to end up putting a cap on it and putting an end date some time.


You mention the word “questioning.” Did you ever question your future prior to this season? Did that thought of leaving it all behind ever come to mind? If so, what was it that changed that idea?

To be quite frank, last year took a lot out of me both emotionally and physically. It was tough. It was a rollercoaster of a year. I was in a bad spot mentally, physically. The locker room was in disarray. I took a lot of self-inventory, and I got on myself for letting the locker room get to where it was. It was just refreshing to have this clean slate. We all came in. We all bought in. Again, I think that’s why it’s such a joy this year. It’s been awesome. It’s been so fun.


How do you describe Matias Almeyda?

[A] great man both on and off the field. I think that he has a lot of the morals and values that I think makes up a great man. I think that’s something that I strive for and to be like. I think that he just lives life the right way.


Do you sense that there’s the next Chris Wondolowski – not in the goal scoring aspect, but with the ‘this is my club’ mentality, ownership, and leadership – in the current locker room or maybe somewhere in the Quakes pipeline?

I think there’s a few guys coming up with that. I see guys from the area who have really taken ownership of the club. I see it in Shea Salinas, but also guys like Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima. I think these guys are really understanding what this club stands for and help moving it in the right direction, because this is a special club – there’s so much history and so many great things that happened. I think that they understand it, and are helping move it in the right direction. 


Who did you talk to regarding standing with the Ultras and cheering with them for 90 minutes? Is this something you thought about the day before or a couple days before when you first found out you were going to be suspended. Did you speak to maybe your wife about it, your family? Who was it?

It was just kind of something I’ve always wanted to do.


Just innate?

Yeah. You know, I wanted to be able to yell. I definitely told my wife about it and talked to her about it. She knows how crazy I am, though. But she was all about it. It was just one of those things where I had so much pent up frustration from the red card as well, and it gives me an outlet to yell. I was going to have a lot of nervous energy about that game anyway, so it allowed me to express that. 

SAN JOSE, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) chants with the fans in the stands before the MLS soccer match between the Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes on September 25, 2019 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the integration of LAFC to the league, it has taken away a lot of the spotlight from the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes as a rivalry. People who follow this club near and dear will always see the California Clasico as “the” rivalry. With the pending integration of Sacramento Republic to the league, is it possible that San Jose and Sac Republic end up having an organic rivalry? Is that the next big rivalry for San Jose, and is it legitimate?

I think it’s going to be a great rivalry. I think that anytime you’re battling and you have similar territory – especially nowadays with the academies; we’re going to be fighting over those guys and stuff as well. I think that what makes a rivalry is what happens on the field. Fans will always help it and help promote it, but when you’re out there and you’re battling against them, you just develop a dislike for them, a dislike for the club because you want your club to be better. I think that it’s important to have some of these rivalries, and I think the Sacramento one is going to be a great one.


It’s not really talked about, but it’s factual: You are the leading American-born goalscorer in the league this season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you never announced your retirement from the U.S. men’s National Team. Does it bother you that you’re not even considered, given that fact?

I’d appreciate it, but I would probably turn it down anyways. I am pretty much retired from it. It’s time for the US to move on. There’s so many valuable growth in getting into camps. That’s why I love that Jackson [Yueill] and Nick [Lima] are in these camps. It’s something that you really grow from and learn from. I think you can grow as a player and as a person there. It’s time for Josh Sargent and all these other young guys to really make their mark, and I think they’re doing a good job of it and hopefully they can continue it.

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

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Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

Wondolowski double leads Almeyda-less Quakes past Orlando

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The game in 200 words (or less):  The San Jose Earthquakes continue to win without Matias Almeyda on the sideline. The Argentine coach is serving a three-game suspension issued by the league for a scuffle with officials following his team’s 4-0 loss against LAFC. Their latest victim? Orlando City, who registered lone shot on target against a San Jose team that bounced back after suffering three straight losses. Like in many instances before, it was Chris Wondolowski playing hero. The 36-year-old, who shows no signs of slowing down, scored two goals in the first half to put the game out reach for James O’Connor and Co. With the result, the Quakes surge to second place in the Western Conference, while Orlando, now four points behind Toronto, continue to see their playoffs fade before their eyes.

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Eriksson opens things up before fans get to their seats — Magnus Eriksson has, discreetly, put together a formidable season.

20′ — Wondolowski opens his account  — Perfect through ball from Vako, better positioning and finish from Wondo.

33′ — Wondolowski records his double — Inside the box, there is very little one can do to tame Wondo. That’s 157 league goals for him now.

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Man of the match: Chris Wondolowski

Goalscorers: Eriksson (3′), Wondolowski (20′), Wondolowski (33′)

Chris Wondolowski sets another MLS record in historic career

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Just months removed from becoming MLS’ all-time leading goalscorer, Chris Wondolowski is putting pen to the record book once again.

The 36-year-old is the league’s first player to ever score 10 goals (or more) in 10 consecutive seasons. His tenth of the season came against Sporting Kansas City, who, for one reason or another, left him unmarked in the box on a corner kick – an imprudent defensive strategy.

Wondolowski’s regular-season tally is now at 154 goals, 31 goals clear of Kei Kamara‘s 123, who is the second highest active goalscorer in the league.

The San Jose Earthquakes captain’s record run began in 2010. He was 27.