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Christmas unwrapping, our favorite stories of 2012: Mine was Chris Wondolowski’s record breaking year

Dec 24, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers Getty Images

Who doesn’t love a comeback story?

Chris Wondolowski isn’t a “comeback” tale in the conventional sense, but it certainly is one of overcoming obstacles, an underdog’s account, if you will.

Wondolowski came out of a small college and was an unheralded MLS draft pick back in 2005. His top resume boast at that point: being a 17-goal scorer for the Chico Rooks in one of the country’s lower tier leagues.

He’s not remarkably big and even he, himself, pokes fun at those unlovely 40-yard dash times.

Indeed, nothing about the man was screaming “record-breaking scoring star.” He didn’t even become a starter in MLS until 2009. Wondolowski was 26 by then, an age when many pro careers are already reduced to “what-might-have-been” dust.

So what a sensational – fair to say “inspirational” – story he became in 2012 as we traced the record-breaking arc through Major League Soccer’s 17th season.

“Wonder Wondo” was set up for success this year, with a whopping 34 goals in 2010 and 2011. Still, who saw this coming?

By July, we were writing with wonder (no pun intended) about whether the San Jose Earthquakes could fetch Roy Lassister’s single-season record for MLS goals, 27, set back in the very different day of 1996, the league’s inaugural campaign.

San Jose’s high-scoring team sure helped, but Wondolowski’s year or years was all about his scorers’ instincts, about that underdog-type unbending determination, and about his wonderfully clinical finishing

On Oct. 27, Wondolowski made history in Portland, striking No. 27 from the penalty spot at Jeld-Wen Field, putting a pretty bow on what I will call my favorite story of 2012.

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