San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski drew level with Landon Donovan on the all-time Major League Soccer career scoring chart with his 21st minute opener against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, and then exploded past the record with a four-goal haul on the day.
The first goal was the 145th of his MLS career, tying Donovan’s mark set in 2016 at the end of his return to the Los Angeles Galaxy. He then blew past the milestone after the halftime break, scoring a second-half hat-trick to complete the rousing victory.
Wondolowski, now 36 years old – just one behind Donovan – has over 300 career appearances for the Earthquakes, joining in 2005 and playing 11 seasons for the club, just interrupted by a three-year stint with the Houston Dynamo over a decade ago. All but four of his career MLS goals have come for the lone franchise.
The performance marks the first time Wondolowski has scored four goals in a game in his career, and represents his fourth career MLS hat-trick.
Owning 35 caps and 11 goals for the United States national team, Wondo has been known throughout his career as a quintessential target man, and his playing style is often a hot-button topic for USMNT fans who enjoy debating the merits of his goalscoring talents against his streaky return and other contributions. Saturday’s record-tying goal was a perfect encapsulation of his abilities, contributing just a tap-in at the far post but always in the right position to do so.
Wondolowski’s miss late in the game against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup knockout stage is forever part of his legacy, but his career longevity, goalscoring tally, and contributions to the domestic game should not be left out of the conversation, now on 148 MLS goals.
The goals against Chicago on Saturday are the first of the season for Wondolowski, who had lost his place in the starting lineup for the goal drought. Wondo started the first four games of the seasons – all losses for San Jose – and since he dropped from the starting lineup, the team has lost just twice in eight games, winning four.
The last place San Jose Earthquakes have a new direction for the future.
With Mikael Stahre sent packing less than a month ago, San Jose announced the hire of former Chivas Guadalajara head coach Matias Almeyda. The 44-year-old Argentinian won the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League with Chivas, qualifying for the 2018 Club World Cup, but departed after clashes with the front office regarding offseason player recruitment and the planning of the preseason schedule.
However, Almeyda left his mark on Chivas. Joining in 2015, the club was nearing relegation. He won the Copa MX in his first year in charge, and won the Supercopa MX in 2016. He won the Copa MX yet again in 2017, and then earned the league title with a 4-3 aggregate score over Tigres, giving Chivas its second-ever double, the first club to achieve that multiple times.
San Jose hopes that Almeyda can replicate that success he had at Chivas with the Earthquakes.
“What we saw in Matias was a coach that brought success by creating a culture we strive to emulate,” Earthquakes GM Jesse Fioranelli said in a statement. “He has demonstrated leadership qualities in Argentina with River Plate and Banfield, as well as in Mexico with Chivas. He has always had a winning mentality, both as a player and a coach, and most importantly, he is someone that knows how to redirect a team in a difficult situation with a commitment to a distinct style of play and youth development.
“Matias came here because he welcomes the challenge of helping our organization open a new chapter after a grueling season. He had several other opportunities available to him from clubs and national teams around the world, but made it very clear the Earthquakes were the one he wanted to lead.”
During the height of his playing days, Almeyda played for River Plate, Lazio, Sevilla, and Inter Milan. He made 35 appearances for the Argentinian national team and featured in two World Cup squads.
First in the East against last in the West sugessted that Atlanta United’s trip to the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday would be a routine win for Gerardo Martino’s team.
Ah, yeah. Not at all.
San Jose raced into a 3-1 lead and then VAR took a goal away from them and gave a penalty kick to Atlanta in the space of a few seconds and that is when the game turned on its head for San Jose’s interim head coach Steve Ralston.
Courtesy of a header from Nick Lima and stunning goals from Danny Hoesen and Vako, plus a beauty from ATL’s Hector Villalba, San Jose led 3-1 in the 69th minute and then came the pivotal moment.
San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski finished clinically to make it 4-1, but VAR chalked the goal off as a handball in the penalty box from Magnus Eriksson was picked up at the other end in a previous attack to Wondo’s goal. Eriksson clearly moved his arm towards the ball and it came off his shoulder, blocking a cross towards Atlanta’s attackers.
That gave Josef Martinez the chance to score from the penalty spot, which he did, to make it 3-2, then Miguel Almiron made it 3-3 and Martinez struck in stoppage time (his 30th goal of the season) to make it 4-3.
Check out the highlights below as Atlanta kept ahead in the race to win the Supporters’ Shield and the Eastern Conference.
The worst team in Major League Soccer has made a coaching change.
Sitting bottom of the Western Conference with just 20 points through 28 matches, the San Jose Earthquakes parted ways with Mikael Stahre, who was just hired last November. Assistant coach Steve Ralston will serve as interim manager until the team makes a decision on who to hire permanently. Fellow assistant coach Alex de Crook was also relieved of his duties.
“I would like to thank Mikael and Alex for their hard work and professionalism this season,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in an official release on the team website. “Mikael has qualities, both as a person and a coach, that will be missed by players, staff and the front office alike.”
With just six matches remaining in the MLS regular season, the Earthquakes own the worst record in the league by four points and sit a whopping 24 points back of the final playoff spot. They went nearly a full three months between wins, defeating Minnesota United on May 12 and failing to earn another victory until inexplicably beating 2nd place FC Dallas on the road on August 4.
“We felt we needed a change and decided that the six remaining games represent an opportunity for all of us to begin heading in a new direction and to evaluate our options actively with a single goal in mind: to strengthen our First Team for the upcoming season and beyond,” Fioranelli said.
The news comes on the heels of a 5-1 demolition at home at the hands of Sporting KC over the weekend. San Jose was down 3-0 at halftime, and put just five of its 17 shots on target.
The 43-year-old Swede becomes the third Quakes head coach fired in the last 15 months, following Chris Leitch and Dominic Kinnear, the latter of whom was fired last June 25. New interim boss Steve Ralston now finds himself with his first career head coaching job, although he is no stranger to MLS. The 44-year-old made 378 career MLS appearances before retiring in 2010, and at the time of his departure held the MLS records for assists, appearances, starts, and minutes played, although most of those have been since surpassed.
The first winner of FIFA’s #EqualGame award is currently plying his trade in Major League Soccer.
Georgian captain Guram Kashia is now with San Jose Earthquakes, but was the focus of anti-LGBT ire last season while leading Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
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Kashia wore a rainbow-colored captain’s arm band for Vitesse in support of the LGBT community, and was met with a violent response.
According to the BBC:
Anti-LGBT protestors in his homeland reacted with riots, smoke bombs and flares. A rainbow flag was burned outside the headquarters of the Georgian Football Federation, while the defender faced threats and abuse, with calls made for him to be dropped from the national team.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin celebrated Kashia for preaching “tolerance and acceptance, and help(ing to) change perceptions of this minority group in his native country of Georgia.”
Kashia will be honored by the Quakes before their Aug. 29 game against FC Dallas.