When San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski comes to the minds of most American soccer fans, they remember the golden opportunity he squandered during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, a deeper look into his career will show that the 35-year-old is a mere 10 goals away from tying Major League Soccer’s goal-scoring record, currently owned by former Earthquakes and LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan.
No matter the sport, it’s rare to get to see the legends play live. Sitting on 135 MLS goals, Wondolowski is just 10 away from tying Landon Donovan’s all-time league goal-scoring record. MLS may still be in its infancy, but you never know how long the record will last. In baseball, Hack Wilson drove in 191 RBIs in 1930 and Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games in 1941. Neither of those records has ever been touched and, while this record is likely to fall much sooner than that, how many fans at that time thought they wouldn’t live to see those records be broken?
Even if a current or future player does attempt to match Donovan and Wondolowski’s goal-scoring feats, what are the chances he’ll stay in MLS long enough to do so? Most players want to test themselves at the highest level, which means transferring to Europe. Despite the goals of the league, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to come close to matching the level of the top leagues for decades. With the top teams showing more respect for the league by the year, it’s much more likely that any player with that goal-scoring prowess will be scooped up by a European club.
Tonight’s game will be the fourth time that Orlando City has faced off against Wondolowski’s Earthquakes but only the second in Orlando and the first featuring the striker. Fans of the purple-clad Lions have already seen what this devastating poacher can do. Last year, after Carlos Rivas gave the Lions a 1-0 lead in the 80th minute, Wondolowski found himself in the right place at the right time, touching home a scuffed shot by Tommy Thompson for the equalizer. Chances to see him play in person may be dwindling.
While Wondolowski has said that he still has no plans to retire as of now, he is undoubtedly on the back end of his career. By 35 years old, most players are well beyond their prime and, if not already, will soon be considering retirement. This northern California native has been with the Earthquakes since 2009 and plays his home games within a few miles of his hometown, so it’s unlikely he’ll be looking to play anywhere else. With San Jose residing in the Western Conference, Wondolowski’s trips to Orlando are biennial, making his next visit in 2020, when he’ll be 37.
The focus of Orlando City fans’ attention is rightly on their team and MLS records are generally not front-page news. When Wondolowski takes the field at Orlando City Stadium for the first time, most of the crowd probably won’t realize what they have the opportunity to see. It’s unknown how much longer Wondo will play or if he’ll return to Orlando, but tonight, Orlando City fans will be able to watch statistically the greatest goal scorer in American soccer. That’s something to appreciate.