Tommy Thompson

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.

MLS: ATL run wild on 10-man SJ; MNUFC fall to CLB, at home

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Atlanta United 4-2 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): Here’s the toughest part of facing Atlanta: they come at you in waves, and they. do. not. ever. stop. coming. San Jose learned that lesson the hard way — made even more difficult by Kofi Sarkodie’s 32nd-minute red card, which forced Chris Leitch’s side to play a man down for an hour, on the road, against one of MLS’s highest-tempo teams — on Tuesday. Tommy Thompson gave the visitors an early lead, which they would hold onto until the 55th minute, at which point all hell broke loose. Carlos Carmona equalized, Josef Martinez put Atlanta in front 10 minutes later, but Chris Wondolowski answered fewer than 90 seconds later. Anton Walkes bagged the winner, Atlanta’s third goal of the night scored on a ball delivered from a wide area, in the 81st minute, and Martinez put the game to bed one minute before full-time. With the victory, Atlanta sit 4th in the Eastern Conference, just three points back of New York City FC, five back of Toronto FC, and seven back of league-leading Chicago Fire.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three Four Five Six moments that mattered

2′ — Thompson bags his first MLS goal for 1-0 — It took him 2,563 minutes of playing time over three and a half seasons, but Thompson finally has a league goal to his name.

32′ — A second yellow for Sarkodie, SJ down to 10 — Kofi Sarkodie was more than a little fortunate to still be on the field after just 10 minutes, so he can’t complain too much when he’s shown a soft second yellow card 22 minutes later.

55′ — Carmona taps in the equalizer — Josef Martinez is just an unbelievable joy to watch. Some of the things he tries, and pulls off, are so rare to MLS. Turns out, he’s also an Olympic high-jumper.

65′ — Martinez heads home for 2-1 — Greg Garza serves up a tasty ball from his left back spot, and Martinez loves to go up and get it.

66′ — Wondo equalizes 78 seconds later — Apparently, current MLS defenders haven’t been watching MLS at all this decade, because they’ve still not figured out the league’s one unbreakable rule: never leave Wondolowski alone on either post.

81′ — Walkes heads home for 3-2 — Julian Gressel served up the corner kick, no one for San Jose dealt with it, and Walkes powered the header past David Bingham to seal all three points.

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Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Thompson (2′), Carmona (55′), Martinez (65′, 89′), Wondolowski (66′), Walkes (81′)


Minnesota United 0-1 Columbus Crew SC

The game in 100 words (or less): Theoretically, all 22 teams are still very much alive in the race for six playoff places in each the Eastern and Western Conferences. Realistically, however, teams like Minnesota can’t afford to drop many more points the rest of the way — especially at home — if they’re to claw their way back into the fight out West. Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Columbus, while not season-killing, was a bitter blow with Adrian Heath’s side seeking to move to within a single point of 6th-place LA Galaxy. Instead, the Loons managed just a single shot on target all game long and dropped all three points for the sixth time in their last nine games. All four teams that stand between Minnesota and a playoff place currently have at least one game in hand.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three moments that mattered

56′ — Steffen makes the diving save on Ibson — The Loons were headed for a 1-0 lead not long before the hour mark, but Zack Steffen was all over Ibson’s free kick.

58′ — Manneh fires from distance, makes it 1-0 — Perhaps letting Manneh take so many touches through the center of the field wasn’t so wise.

65′ — Shuttleworth goes full-stretch to deny Kamara — Ola Kamara had picked out the near post with his volley from the edge of the box, but Bobby Shuttleworth was quick to cover his near post and make the save.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Manneh (58′)

Video: Tommy Thompson nets brilliant back heel finish

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It’s only preseason but Tommy Thompson looked to be in midseason form on Saturday for the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 21-year-old forward opened the scoring for the Earthquakes during their friendly with Reno 1868 FC of the USL. Reno will make its debut in the league during the upcoming 2017 season.

Anyway, Thompson is surrounded by Reno bodies inside the penalty area, before pulling the ball back on his right foot and knocking it beyond the goalkeeper to give Dominic Kinnear’s side the 1-0 lead.

Jurgen Klinsmann struggling to get USMNT players released for Olympic qualifying

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Don’t look now, but the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship is just over a month away from kicking off, and Jurgen Klinsmann is beginning to worry about which key players will and won’t be available for the start of the United States U-23 team’s qualifying campaign.

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While Klinsmann won’t be coaching the U-23 squad himself (he’ll be busy with the senior team in their Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10), Klinsmann’s role as technical director and overseer of the entire U.S. Soccer program makes him the one responsible for liaising with the involved players’ club sides.

In a video released by USSoccer.com on Monday (above video), Klinsmann explains the intricacies — and difficulties — of getting the club teams of that many quality players to release their prized possessions for international duty when they don’t necessarily have to do so.

“We need help from the clubs overseas, we need help from the clubs here in MLS, in order to get the players released, especially [since] the Olympic qualifiers start outside of the release dates, so we badly need those players in order to qualify for Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully we get the support by all the clubs to get the players in.”

The tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 1, when the Yanks will face Canada at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and that’s a problem, because the international window for early October doesn’t begin until Monday, Oct. 5. The US U-23 squad will play its three games in Group A on Oct. 1, 3 and 6. Two teams advance from each four-team group. The two semifinals winners advance to the final and automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Regarding players likely to be called up to the Olympic qualifying team, the following players’ club teams have league games that will conflict with Klinsmann’s request to release them for the start of the tournament:

  • Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC — Saturday, Oct. 3, vs. New York Red Bulls
  • Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht — Oct. 3, vs. Excelsior
  • Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls — Oct. 3, vs. Columbus Crew SC
  • Gedion Zelalem, Rangers (on loan) — Oct. 3, vs. Falkirk
  • Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas — Oct. 4, vs. Houston Dynamo
  • Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake — Sunday, Oct. 4, vs. Colorado Rapids
  • Jose Villarreal, LA Galaxy — Oct. 4, vs. Seattle Sounders
  • Dillon Serna, Colorado Rapids — Oct. 4, vs. Real Salt Lake
  • Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Tyler Turner, Orlando City SC — Oct. 3, vs. Montreal Imapct
  • Christian Dean, Vancouver Whitecaps — Oct. 3, vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Key players perhaps unaffected due to their various club situations:

  • Emerson Hyndman, Fulham — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Paul Arriola, Club Tijuana — currently a bench player

October is just about worst time of the calendar year for the Americans in which CONCACAF could have planned to stage this tournament, from a player availability standpoint — MLS’s 2015 regular season will be winding down at that time with the season’s final matchday taking place Oct. 25.

Perhaps breaking apart the “tournament” and spreading it out over the September and October international dates would have better suited Klinsmann and the US U-23 team, but contrary to popular belief, CONCACAF doesn’t exist simply to cater to the US and Mexican federations on any and all matters.

Qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is by no means a foregone conclusion for the American men (remember the 2012 qualifying debacle?), and potentially being forced to begin their quest without a number of their best players will only make it more of a challenge and require the group’s depth to exceed expectations.

MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes

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One game in 100 words: From an attacking standpoint, the Portland Timbers outplayed their opponent, the San Jose Earthquakes. Caleb Porter’s side held 61 percent of possession and struck 23 shots all together. But their main problem revolved around getting those chances on net and staying onside. When the Earthquakes had their few bright spots, misfortune struck, mainly noticed with the missed handball in the first half that could’ve ended this game much differently. The absence of Chris Wondolowski up front was apparent in San Jose’s offensive intentions, as Dominic Kinnear and Co. find themselves fighting for a playoff spot past the season’s halfway mark. Portland is situated at third place in the Western Conference.

 

Goals

Portland: Jack Jewsbury 90’+1′

San Jose: None

 

Three moments that mattered

24’ — Missed handball — Shea Salinas curved in corner kick to the back post in casual fashion, and forward Mark Sherrod located the ball at the right point and headed it down toward goal. The attempt skipped past goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey and fell right onto the upper arm of Alvas Powell, who cleared the danger but managed to escape being called for a certain handball. If that occurred, a penalty kick might have changed the course of this game.

83’ — Thompson goes for PK — ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman went on to praise the quick turn toward goal executed by forward Tommy Thompson, and it was a well-timed exertion giving the youngster an opportunity to draw a foul with a defender breathing down his neck. Thompson did his best to try and sell the little contact he felt on his back. While there will be times when referees call a penalty in a similar situation, the Earthquakes didn’t have that luck here.

90’ +1’ — Timbers capitalize in stoppage time — It was a set-piece in a decent position that ultimately allowed Portland to utilize its opportunistic tendencies. Diego Valeri took a shot but fired it too low to score on the first crack. The ball deflected off of the post, and Jack Jewsbury hustled to tap it in from a tough angle. The endeavor squeezed into the back of the net, and the tired Earthquakes’ inactive defending costed them.

 

Lineups

Portland: Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti 79′); Adam Larsen Kwarasey; Alvas Powell, Norberto Paparatto, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana, Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Dairon Asprilla (Rodney Wallace 73′), Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe (Gastón Fernández 84′)

San Jose: Mark Sherrod (Adam Jahn 76′); David Bingham, Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson, Jordan Stewart; Fatai Alashe, Shea Salinas, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Tommy Thompson (J.J. Koval 90’+1′), Leandro Barrera (Shaun Francis 72′)