Fielding questions from down in Southern California, San Jose Earthquake striker Chris Wondolowski admitted he finally had a piece of hardware to put next to his AYSO Participation Trophy from his time in Danville.
"It’s the only one I’ve kept,” Wondolowski said.
Wondolowski’s latest addition to his trophy case has the words, "Most Valuable Player” and "Major League Soccer” engraved in it. The 2012 Golden Boot winner was named the MLS MVP following a landslide vote that gave the San Jose franchise its first MVP in club history.
"It’s just a huge honor and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Wondolowski said. "The team plays such a huge role in that. It’s definitely more of a team award than individual. There are so many guys that played an intricate part in it. We have such great camaraderie in the locker room that I think we are all genuinely happy for it.”
Wondolowski’s 27 goals this season tied the league’s all-time single-season record and won him a second Golden Boot award. The goals helped the striker set an MLS mark for game-winning goals with 11. He also became the only player in MLS history to score the most regular season goals in three consecutive seasons. His dominance throughout the season earned him four MLS Player of the Month awards, a feat unmatched in league history.
"It was a great feeling,” Wondolowski said. "It just kind of snowballed with the confidence and when you’re playing with confidence and have some ability, it definitely makes you a better player. It definitely helped me. It’s kind of been a whirlwind though. I haven’t had time to reflect on the whole year in general, so hopefully the next few weeks, I’ll be able to do that and get ready for the next season coming up.”
Wondolowski is the first player in club history to win league MVP honors. In 2010, he was a finalist along with L.A. Galaxy forward Edson Buddle and eventual MVP David Ferreira of FC Dallas. The only other players in club history to be named a finalist for the award were Jeff Agoos in 2003 and Dwayne De Rosario in 2005. The Danville native led the Earthquakes to their second Supporters’ Shield in club history for most wins during the regular season, just a year removed from finishing 14th overall in MLS.
"I feel that we had a great team, very offensive oriented,” Wondolowski said. "And I think that played a lot into my strengths, getting wide and getting a lot of crosses. We had guys stay healthy all year and guys stepping up. It’s just one of those things where everything came together at the right time.”
Since entering MLS in 2005, Wondolowski has recorded a total of 68 league goals, 64 of which came after moving from Houston to San Jose in the middle of the 2009 season. He ranks 20th all-time in MLS goal scoring, two behind Cobi Jones.
"I don’t set a lot of individual goals,” Wondolowski said. "I always try to set the goals on wins. We did a great job in the regular season but we came up a little short when it counted. So I think we can learn from that. I came into this year pretty confident of the acquisitions that we made. I thought the team was going to be better so I was very excited.”
The award was voted on by media members, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular-season performance. Members of the press awarded Wondolowski nearly 97 percent of the vote while 91 percent of the club vote went his way. Of the players who voted, nearly 71 percent chose Wondolowski. The San Jose striker beat out Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City and former French National Team striker and current New York Red Bull Thierry Henry.
"I’m not sure that it’s important,” Wondolowski said about being a homegrown talent and picking up the MVP as opposed to an MLS foreign import. "I just hope that it influenced one or two and I think the job is complete. Not just necessarily as a home grown [player] I just hope the message gets out that, don’t give up on your goals and your dreams. If you believe it, you accomplish it if you’re willing to put the work in and the time. That’s the more important message.”
The postseason award for Wondolowski comes on the heels of an MLS Coach of the Year award for his head coach Frank Yallop.
"So deserved,” Wondolowski said. "He’s a great coach and I love playing for him. He’s helped make me the player and the person that I am today. Could not be more thankful and I think he definitely deserved to be the Coach of the Year.”