Skip to content

Take nothing from him: Chris Wondolowski earns deserved place in MLS record book

Oct 27, 2012, 10:51 PM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers Getty Images

PORTLAND, Ore. — Show me a record, and I’ll show a mark that deserves an asterisk. There’s always an argument to be made. Eric Dickerson had two more games than O.J. Simpson. Barry Bonds played with juiced baseballs and juice arms. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game was less professional game than exhibition. Even free-falls from the edge of space require perfect weather conditions. Depending on your point to view, any record can be skewed. All it takes is enough cynicism.

But that’s the nature of records. They’re always set under the most advantageous circumstances. To start picking them apart is to deny records themselves. No competitive result takes place in a vacuum, and if it did, we wouldn’t care. The meaning behind the achievement comes when the odds can go for or against you; when you have no control of the context; when you have to wait for circumstances beyond your control to lineup up so perfectly that it creates a once in a lifetime opportunity.

And then you still have to perform.

Other, lesser numbers may be more impressive in context, and still others may have been posted by those with half the talent and twice the luck. But to set a record – to put your name on the top of a list that will be referenced for as long as people play soccer in this country – everything has to come together, just as everything did for Chris Wondolowski, whose 27th goal of the season Saturday night tied him for the all-time single-season record in Major League Soccer.

MORE: Breaking down San Jose’s draw in Portland

You have to be good. You have to be impeccably good. Nobody stumbles into 27 goals. Other players have had more and better chances, but only one put away 27. Even if somebody someday hits 28, they’ll never be able to say Wondolowski didn’t deserve this mark.

You need help. “Wondo” has the league’s best team around him, one that outscored the rest of the league by some distance. He helped get career years out of Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Marvin Chavez and Sam Cronin. Rafael Baca and Simon Dawkins had their best professional seasons.

Wondo didn’t do it alone, and he knows it.

“I appreciate all the teammates that have done so much,” Wondolowski said afterward. “[S]uch hard work … a lot of credit goes to them.”

“I know when I play with him, or when he’s on the field, that he wants to win,” San Jose forward Steven Lenhart said, having played necessary role in Wondolowski’s record-tying effort. “[H]e’s going to give everything he has, so it makes me give everything I have … it’s just a joy to be a part of.”

You need the circumstances to fall in line. Four seasons ago, Wondolowski was playing for one of the best coaches in Major League Soccer, but he just didn’t fit with the team. He scored only four goals in 39 games in for Dominic Kinner in Houston (and San Jose). Traded to the Earthquakes, Wondolowski has slid into a system that fits his skillset. In his four seasons back in the Bay Area, Wondo’s scored 66 goals in 104 games.

MORE: See Wondo’s record-tying goal – VIDEO

And you need luck. Wondolowski’s scored some goals from the spot (four), a few in added time (three goals beyond 90′), and handful while up a man (three). All these circumstances require luck, but it’s the same luck every striker that’s ever played has had on their sides. Wondo made the most of it.

On Saturday, a different kind of luck came into play when San Jose was awarded a controversial penalty. You can thank Steven Lenhart or Mark Geiger for goal 27, or you can credit Wondolowski for being in position to capitalize. Isn’t that what goal scoring’s all about?

It is the nature of records to be set when everything falls in line. If it wasn’t Wondolowski, it would have been somebody else years  from now for whom the stars aligned. Today, 16 years after Roy Lassiter set the mark, Wondo became that somebody else, a somebody who sits unbeaten on Major League Soccer’s single-season goalscoring charts.

“To have my name even mentioned with him, it’s a true honor,” Wondolowski said of Lassiter, the man with whom is is now inextricably linked. “I’m full of glee right now.”

He deserved the moment. Fans were left pondering the simulation that drew the fateful penalty, but their cynicism will fade, as it should. Other players have benefitted from such behavior, only their goals weren’t record-tiers. Just because Wondolowski’s was number 27 doesn’t mean it should overshadow the 26 that came before it.

And it won’t. No Bowie Kuhn is going to put an asterisk on this mark. There is the genuine feeling around the league that Wondolowski’s earned this.

“He’s had a tremendous, tremendous season,” Portland Timbers head coach Gavin Wilkinson said after the game, choosing to focus on Wondo’s record rather than how it came about. “Take the decision out of it … He’s tied the MLS record, and it’s gone to a very, very good player.”

If everything fell into place – up to and including the final, record-tying goal – it doesn’t make the mark any less valuable. It makes the mark no different than every other record that exists in competitive sports.

On Saturday, Chris Wondolowski took his rightful place along site Roy Lassiter. If there’s one thing that’s become clear over the last the last eight months, it’s that he’s earned the honor.

Highlights from Wondo’s historic night in Portland:

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Wondowlowski, after the match:

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Latest Posts
  1. 2015 Gold Cup: With the rest of CONCACAF making strides, this is USMNT’s chance to show they are, too

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT Getty Images

    While the rest of CONCACAF closes the gap on the USA and Mexico, it’s time for the USMNT to show they’re still improving, too.

  2. New York City mayor could give USWNT ticker tape parade in Manhattan

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT

    United States AP

    Are Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd the next athletes to be seen parading down the Canyon of Heroes?

  3. Study names Raheem Sterling most valuable young player in Europe

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    The only question is, who’s willing to pay the price?

  4. After Women’s World Cup triumph, Wambach, Ellis face questions about 2016 Olympics

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:17 PM EDT

    150706-Wambach-Ellis Getty Images

    Will Abby Wambach play at the 2016 Olympics in Rio? She hasn’t yet said.

  5. Real Madrid rejects FC Porto bid for Iker Casillas

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    The goalkeeper’s agent has said Casillas would like a move to Portugal, but Real is playing hardball.

  6. 2015 Copa America: Champions Chile dominate Team of the Tournament

    Jul 6, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjyju2ntc3mgexowfjytvhodjkzgu5ytbhmtc3ywqw AP

    In the world of South American football, everything is coming up Chile.

  7. Etienne Capoue joins Watford for club record transfer fee

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-ASTERAS TRIPOLIS Getty Images

    After a failed spell at Tottenham, the French midfielder is now a Hornet.

  8. 2015 Gold Cup preview: United States look to defend title

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT

    Championship - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

    The Gold Cup kicks off tomorrow as Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT look to repeat as champions of CONCACAF.

  9. Barcelona officially announce signing of Arda Turan…for now

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:43 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    A strange clause in the contract allows Barca to sell the midfielder back to Atletico by July 20.

  10. Former FIFA inspector of 2018, 2022 World Cup bids banned by FIFA; Was leery of Russia, Qatar

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT

    DOHA, QATAR - SEPTEMBER 16:  Qatar 2022 Bid Chairman H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani makes a presentation to chief FIFA inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls to bring to a close FIFA's three day visit to the Gulf state at the Four Seasons hotel on September 16, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images for Qatar 2022) Getty Images

    Like the heavily-redacted Garcia report, you can’t help but think we won’t have details until we’re watching the court cases and trials of the arraigned.

  11. Bobby Wood finds a home with 2.Bundesliga side Union Berlin

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY - APRIL 27: Bobby Wood of Aue in action during the Second Bundesliga match between Eintracht Braunschweig and Erzgebirge Aue at Eintracht Stadion on April 27, 2015 in Braunschweig, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The striker has signed a three-year deal with the second division side.

  12. Steve Nash — yes, that Steve Nash — registered with NPSL side New York Cosmos B

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:46 PM EDT

    Steve Nash

    The Cosmos B can afford to trot out Nash, considering they are 8-0-1 with a plus-34 goal differential under head coach Alecko Eskandarian.

  13. Official: Andrea Pirlo announces his arrival at New York City FC (video)

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT

    pirlo Getty Images

    Pirlo says an American arrival has been in the cards for a while.

  14. GLORY IN PHOTOS: Our favorite shots from the USWNT’s winning evening in Vancouver

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT

    VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05:  Julie Johnston #19 of United States of America celebrates after winning the  FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 final match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Plenty more flag-waving winners, emotional players, and post-World Cup couple smooches leap off the Women’s World Cup wire. Shall we look at a few?

  15. With legendary Wambach serving as super sub, the USWNT spun a team title tale

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:17 AM EDT

    USA's head coach Jill Ells (R) celebrate their win over Japan with Abby Wambach after the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. women are World Cup champions for the third time thanks to a full team effort that belied its star-first reputation.

  16. CONCACAF lays out reform plan post-scandal: “People are right to be skeptical”

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:23 AM EDT

    MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27:  FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) Getty Images

    CONCACAF lawyer Sam Gandhi’s tone hits all the right conciliatory notes, something that FIFA has been unable to do it in its response under Sepp Blatter.

  17. Southampton, Atletico Madrid in legal battle over Alderweireld rights as Spurs, City wait

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Despite the love heaped on Clyne and Ryan Bertrand last season, Alderweireld was perhaps only second to Jose Fonte in the Saints’ defensive performance pecking order.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip