It's the most Wondoful time of the year for the San Jose Earthquakes and their supporters.
Veteran forward Chris Wondolowski will be returning for another season after all, signing a new one-year deal with the Earthquakes on Christmas Day and extending his career through the 2021 MLS season. Wondolowski had stated prior to the 2020 season that it would be his last, but that was before the pandemic upended everything and before he still proved to be a vital part of the Earthquakes' attack, leading the club with seven goals.
“2020 will certainly be a year we never forget. And while the pandemic has caused so much pain throughout the world, it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on the things I value the most,” Wondolowski said in a statement. “I was fully committed to making 2020 the final year of my career, but I’ve reconsidered and can’t wait to join my teammates one more time as we look to bring an MLS Cup back to San Jose. The fans have consistently supported me through the ups and downs, and I’d always regret not properly saying goodbye.”
Wondolowski is MLS's all-time scoring leader, with 166 regular-season goals. He's 21 clear of second-place Landon Donovan, and the next closest active players are Kei Kamara (130) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (116). No other active player is at 100.
He scored just the second playoff goal of his career in dramatic fashion, sending the Earthquakes' first-round playoff game against Sporting Kansas City into extra time with a header seven minutes into stoppage time (SKC ultimately prevailed on penalties). With regular season and playoff goals combined, Wondolowski trails Donovan by just two for the most in MLS history.
Wondolowski, who turns 38 next month, had hinted at a comeback after San Jose's ouster, with SKC manager Peter Vermes saying in his postgame interview that Wondolowski told him he'd be back. Wondolowski confirmed that after the fact.
“I did talk to Peter [Vermes]," Wondolowski said. "He asked if I was done. I don't think I'm done. You know I love it. I can't get enough of it. I have a passion. It's in me. It's in my blood. I want to continue to play. I don't have anything in mind yet. I haven't discussed any numbers, and I never want to be a burden on the Quakes. I want to make sure to see all the options, see what's out there. I think the Quakes are doing some amazing things, and I want to make sure that there are pieces that can be moved to continue to make this team grow, continue to be better. That's kind of my long-winded story right now. Yeah, I would love to play next year.
"I know that the door is open, but I was fully committed to putting everything I have into this year, and I did," he continued. "Now I need to re-evaluate. I just want to re-evaluate everything: my personal life, my life where I want to be, and also where the club is to see the direction that it’s going.”
That direction, now officially, includes Wondolowski.
“It’s impossible to adequately explain what Chris means to our club and our community,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said. “He has given everything he has to the San Jose Earthquakes and it was never in question that he deserves a better send-off than 2020 was going to allow for. We’re excited to have Wondo fighting on our side in 2021 and for our fans to enjoy the league’s greatest goal-scorer for one more season.”