Chris Wondolowski broke out of his season-long slump to rewrite the MLS record books and pass Landon Donovan atop the league's all-time scoring chart and was celebrated universally around the league and beyond.
In an MLS weekend full of topsy-turvy results and surprise performances, the most notable of them all was actually a throwback to something we'd been accustomed to seeing for nearly a decade but hadn't come close to seeing all season.
Chris Wondolowski broke out of his season-long scoring slump to break Landon Donovan's all-time record for MLS goals in the regular season, tallying the first four-goal game of his career to leap from 144 to 148 and set the new league standard.
Wondo's efforts overshadowed some other accomplishments, such as the Colorado Rapids finally getting in the win column and Orlando City exceeding its scoring output from the previous six games in 90 minutes vs. FC Cincinnati. But the weekend's most noteworthy moment–or four–of them all took place in the Bay Area, where MLS's most unlikely legend etched his name in the record books for good, and that's where we'll start our look back at the best of Week 12:
I. Wondo sets the record emphatically
Nearly a third of the way through the season, you had to be wondering if the 36-year-old Wondolowski might actually fall short of Donovan's mark. The chances of him putting up a goose egg for the season were always going to be slim, especially when you consider he's gone nine straight years with double digits in goals, but the reality of the Earthquakes is that it's a team moving beyond its captain into a new era. Manager Matias Almeyda is reworking the team, turning to youth and new faces, and, as a result, Wondo's playing time and on-field role have diminished considerably. After four fruitless starts to open the season, he had to settle for 70 minutes in the next seven matches combined.
Gifted the opportunity to start again on Saturday afternoon against the previously in-form Chicago Fire, Wondo made sure to make the most of it:
There are plenty of ways to look at the record. When you factor in playoff goals, for instance, Donovan is at 170 (his 25 playoff goals are the MLS standard), while Wondolowski is at 149 after only having tallied once in the postseason. That combined regular season-playoff total isn't likely to fall, and the vast spread is due, in part, to San Jose's overall futility during the last decade and inability to sustain playoff success like the Galaxy did during Donovan's prime. Wondo may not go down as the greatest player in MLS. There are arguments for a handful of other players, Donovan included. But his story–the rise from developmental player, to World Cup veteran to MLS record holder–is absolutely up there with the best of the bunch.
II. Reaction to Wondo says everything
If Wondo's teammates throwing him up in the air following the win wasn't enough of an indication of how beloved the forward is around the sport–yes, even after the Belgium game–perhaps the widespread recognition for his feat did the trick.
Everyone from Donovan to Jurgen Klinsmann to the Golden State Warriors to Barry Bonds and beyond chimed in to commemorate the moment. Kudos to the Earthquakes for the supremely organized effort, especially as it relates to the Bay Area's other teams and their own fantastic tribute video compilation–though, to be fair, they had since October to set it all up!
Congratulations @SJEarthquakes' @ChrisWondo on becoming the all-time leader in goals in @MLS history! The personification of commitment and class, our new goal-scoring king is also the ultimate role model. Enjoy this moment, Wondo. You’ve earned it! https://t.co/Ext0OIvzsq— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) May 19, 2019
III. Words from the man himself
After securing the ultimate individual honor, Wondolowski, naturally, deflected and praised those who helped get him here. For anyone who has watched, played with or covered him, this comes as no surprise.
IV. Oooooh the symmetry
The Chicago Fire would be fine never having to see Wondo again.
V. He's only 147 behind Wondo
From a guy with 148 MLS goals to a guy just getting his first. How about this way to break the duck–and secure the point–for Vancouver's Derek Cornelius?
VI. Another Bofo bazooka
Speaking of superb strikes, RSL's Bofo Saucedo is always capable of pulling off the spectacular, and he was at it again as part of RSL's impressive rout of Toronto FC. If he gets it onto his right from shooting range, look out.
VII. Return of the Mac
Tommy McNamara wasn't a D.C. United player for long. He was picked up in the Chivas USA (RIP) dispersal draft and promptly left unprotected by D.C. for NYCFC's subsequent expansion draft. He landed with Houston after the 2018 season via the re-entry draft. The man has been through the MLS ringer. So there must've been some extra satisfaction for the no-matter-where-he-goes-cult-hero in burning one of his "former sides" with his game-winner for the Dynamo in Saturday's come-from-behind victory. It was his first goal since September 2017.
VIII. Welcome to the win column, Colorado
It took 12 games, and a Zlatan-less LA Galaxy, but the Colorado Rapids have finally broken through with a three-point haul. The question–and it's not a flattering one for the club's status–is where would it be without MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Andre Shinyashiki? Between his stoppage-time equalizer on opening night and his game-winner Sunday, the rookie is responsible for four of the club's five points.
IX. Speaking of unlikelihoods
Atlanta United had been on a roll. Not only had the defending champs won five straight, but they all came via shutout. Sure, they weren't dazzling opponents with regular goal-scoring outbursts, but they were winning again. So losing to a New York Red Bulls side that lost Tim Parker to a 35th-minute red card and was already without his injured center back partner Aaron Long and falling to the sword on a goal by Tom Barlow–another player just 147 goals behind Wondolowski–was not exactly an expected result.
X. It gets personal
Ethan Finlay was dealt from the Columbus Crew to Minnesota United in 2017 and even admitted before facing his former side that, "I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't want to beat up on them pretty bad."
No better time to score your first goal of the season, then.
XI. Vela gets the last word on Bressan–eventually
LAFC and FC Dallas played twice in a four-day span this week, with LAFC taking the midweek battle 2-0 before fighting for a draw in Sunday's showdown. The waning moments of Thursday night's clash involved Carlos Vela absorbing a brutal studs-up challenge from FCD defender Bressan, one that wasn't met with a red card.
Terrible tackle by Bressan on Carlos Vela. How did he not even get a yellow card for that?!?! Very late, nowhere near the ball, and easily could've injured Vela; who needs more protection from referees.#LAFCvDAL #LAFCvFCD #MLS #LAFC pic.twitter.com/O5C6bLpz2U— Joga Bonito (@Jasoninho10) May 17, 2019
So, naturally, Vela had the final say in the rematch, even getting a pair of opportunities to snatch it. Bressan was penalized just before halftime for fouling Vela in the box, but the Mexican forward had his PK saved by Jesse Gonzalez. Fast forward to late in the second half, and Bressan was again penalized, for a handball. This time, Vela made no mistake, tallying his league-leading 14th goal in the process to secure the 1-1 tie.
Karma has a funny way of working out sometimes.