Danville-native Chris Wondolowski takes an unexpected star turn for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Photos by Shaun Fenn
Chris Wondolowski was not supposed to be the face of the San Jose Earthquakes.
This time last year, the 28-year-old Danville native was riding Major League Soccer’s bench, behind better-known and higher paid stars. But when other players went down with injuries, he was put in a game and promptly scored a goal. The next game, he scored another. Then another.
“Wondo,” as he’s affectionately known, didn’t stop until he racked up 18 goals, the most of any player in the league, helping lead the Earthquakes to the play-offs and earning himself a permanent spot in the starting lineup. His prolific scoring binge not only netted him the Golden Boot (the trophy awarded to the player with the most goals), it landed him a spot on the U.S. National Team, a lucrative new deal with the Earthquakes, and the starring role in the team’s 2011 marketing campaign.
“To be honest, it’s been a whirlwind: I don’t really think it’s sunk in yet,” says the soft-spoken Wondolowski, sitting inside Norm’s Place in Danville, where he’d just finished meeting fans and taking photos with adoring kids (and the adoring occasional mother), with the Golden Boot. “I’m just really enjoying it and trying to relish every minute.”
Prep sports fans won’t be too shocked by his success. Wondolowski excelled at every level of his career, from Danville’s Mustang Soccer League to De La Salle High to Chico State. He credits his athleticism to his mother and gives his father, a soccer coach, kudos for instilling discipline and a strong work ethic, something he’s tried to pass along to the next generation, as a coach for Mustang and San Ramon Valley High.
His goals for the new season? Typically, Wondolowski keeps the team at the forefront of his ambitions. “Growing up in this area as a fan of the Earthquakes, I’d love to bring the championship trophy back home. That would really be a dream come true.”