While Clint Dempsey sits and stews awaiting his fate with Fulham in the English Premier League, another U.S. forward is on pace to make Major League Soccer history. Chris Wondolowski, known to his fans as “Wondo,” leads the league with 19 goals for the San Jose Earthquakes. The MLS record is 27, set by Roy Lassiter in 1996, the league’s inaugural season.
With nine matches left and a favorable back-end schedule for the Earthquakes, Wondolowski is within reach of the milestone. The closest anybody has ever gotten to Lassiter’s record was Carlos Ruiz’s 24 goals in 2002.
Wondolowski also could become the first player to lead MLS in scoring three consecutive seasons. He scored a league-high 19 goals in 2010 and tied for the lead with 16 last season.
His statistics are particularly remarkable because he scored only four goals in 37 games for the Houston Dynamo before being traded to San Jose in 2009. He had started only 19 games in five seasons. The 29-year-old was a late bloomer. Part of the reason he didn’t shine with Houston is that the roster was forward-heavy, with Brian Ching leading the group. The move to San Jose resulted in more playing time, and Wondo has taken full advantage.
He probably would be more well-known if he was a flashier player, but Wondolowski rarely scores in spectacular fashion. No David Beckham-like curling kicks. Although the California native was a celebrated middle-distance runner in high school, you won’t find him racing up the flanks with the ball at his feet or taking powerful strikes from distance. The majority of his goals have come from close range, inside the penalty area. He has a knack for getting inside the 6-yard box and tapping in crosses from teammates. He is an opportunist, an assassin.
Some would call him a poacher or a cherry-picker, but whatever he’s doing is working. San Jose leads the Western Conference as the regular season winds down, and a large reason is Wondo.
As for Dempsey, the U.S. national team striker was left off the roster for the second game in a row by Fulham manager Martin Jol. The manager is fed up with talk of Dempsey leaving for Liverpool and believes Dempsey has been distracted by the drama. Fulham lost the game Saturday 3-2 to Manchester United.
He said the team misses the American, who was the leading scorer last season with 23 goals in 45 matches.
“If you look at last season against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, Clint was always the one,” the Fulham manager said. “He’s like a striker, always on the end of things. We had quite a few remarkable results because of that last season.
“It’s not only about teams like Norwich, it’s also about Man United and Chelsea and Clint always played a good part in those games.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool acquired Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin on loan.
• Edu to EPL: U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu is headed from Glasgow Rangers to Stoke City, according the MLSSoccer.com and the Rangers’ website. Edu, 26, joined Rangers in 2008, but with the club’s relegation to the fourth division of the Scottish league because of financial woes, most of the players have sought employment elsewhere. As of Friday, 23 players had transferred out.
• Aguero faces dilemma: Sergio Aguero was called up to play for Argentina in World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay on Sept. 7 and Peru on Sept. 11. But Aguero’s club coach with Manchester City, Roberto Mancini, doesn’t want to let him go. The manager said it is “impossible” for the forward to be in shape by that time.
Aguero twisted his right knee in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Southampton, and City officials want him to rest until mid-September.
“It is impossible,” the Italian said. “Sergio needs a minimum of two weeks without training and maybe two weeks [of training before] he can play again. He can’t go.”
• Late-night Liga: It’s no secret that Spaniards like to dine late and tend to be night owls, but the new 11 p.m. starts for some La Liga games is not going over well with fans, players or team officials. At a game last week, one fan held up a poster that read: “I hate modern football. I hate television.” Some fans at the Malaga-Mallorca match were planning to wear pajamas to the game as a protest. The new kickoff time is the result of a dispute with Spanish cable TV providers.
• Strikers add Tetteh: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers (8-8-7) are in fourth place in the NASL standings heading into the tail end of the season. On Friday, they added Ghanian midfielder Michael Tetteh on loan from the Seattle Sounders in an effort to bolster the attack down the home stretch.
“Michael’s an exciting attacking player. He’s a left-sided guy but can also play on the right. I feel like he’ll fit in right away with our group,” Strikers coach Daryl Shore said. “We have a very good locker room, and everything we’ve heard about Michael is that he’s a team player.
“He’s excited to get down here and help our team try and win a championship.”
Their next home game is Sept. 1 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.