For most of the season, Chris Wondolowski has been the center of the Earthquakes offense. Out of the 16 goals the Earthquakes have scored this season, Wondolowski has been responsible for eight of them (all were goals he scored himself).
But in front of a crowd of 50,422 at Stanford Stadium, and in the 30th installment of the California Clásico (the first one this season and week), the Earthquakes offense shifted its tactics.
Clarence Goodson and Cordell Cato, as well as Chris Wondolowski, all scored goals to give the Earthquakes a 3-1 key divisional victory. Not only did the win move them closer to being considered contenders for the playoffs, but it also served as the mental/moral triumph over a team that they’ll be seeing later this week.
“We want to be title contenders — that’s our philosophy,” explained Wondolowski. “We feel confident when we want to get three points, especially at home. We obviously have a lot of work to do to get there, to get where those teams are, but we want to be there as well.”
Wondo scored his ninth goal of the season on a spectacular individual effort by the Danville native. The Chico State alum began the San Jose attack with a wide pass to Matias Perez Garcia, the team leader in assists and my dark horse pick for midseason MVP. MPG drove the net, then cut back with a hard center that Wondo was able to one-time into the back of the net.
“I think our chemistry is definitely growing,” Wondolowski said. “He’s such a skilled and smart player that it makes my job a lot easier. I got the ball out wide to him and he put a beautiful ball right in on my feet and I was just able to pick out a corner.”
The goal came 11 minutes after a Juninho blast from the 25-yard line.
“It was just a long shot from distance,” explained Earthquakes’ goalkeeper David Bingham. “Ball popped out, he struck it well. I tried to throw everything in my arm behind it and didn’t get enough on it … it started tailing off about eight yards away from me. Tried to throw everything in my left arm and just didn’t get enough of it.”
Although the goal did seem to quiet the crowd, it didn’t seem to worry Coach Dominic Kinnear or the players.
“Great goal by Juninho, what a strike that was. It was a bit of a shocker, and it quieted the place down. But our response was great. The one thing I’ve said from day one even to now is I love the attitude of the group. 17 games in I give these guys an A+ for mentality because it’s been really good.”
Clarence Goodson scored in the 53rd minute to put the Quakes ahead. MPG earned his second assist on a corner that the central defender fought to put a head on and was able to direct it into the back of the net. The header was Goodson’s first of the season and first since joining the San Jose club.
“Clarence’s goal was awesome. Hard run, beat his man. He just wanted it more,” said Adam Jahn.
The former USMNT member has been working his way back into form, the same form that rewarded him with national team recognition.
“He’s been playing real well for us,” said Coach Kinnear after the game. “It gave the guys a little bit of energy, the field opened up a little bit, and we started playing better.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Captain Wondolowski.
“He played excellent, by the way.Not only the goal, but he’s been unbelievable lately.”
Cordell Cato added the insurance goal nearly 20 minutes later on a clever stick from just inside the 18-yard box. It was Cato’s first goal of the year.
“I thought Cordell came in and played real well,” said Coach Kinnear. “His inclusion into the game really turned the tide for us because he found himself in good spots, and he rarely wasted a ball when he received it. So I’m happy for him. It’s good to guys get more involved, more confident. Yeah, we’re going to need some other guys to score now that Chris is leaving. And Cordell is leaving too.”
The two teams meet again Wednesday in an Open Cup showdown and the 31st installment of the California Clásico. San Jose currently has a 21-17-30 record in all Cali Clásico match ups, but have never beaten the Galaxy in Open Cup play.
Assuredly, both teams will sport new lineups and the Earthquakes won’t have 50,000+ fans behind them. But asked if there was anything the team could improve upon before Wednesday’s clash, Coach Kinnear responded:
“Nothing, I hope we win 3-1 next time too.”