MLS 2018: Wondo sees a brighter day in San Jose

Not many MLS players have enjoyed as successful a career as Chris Wondolowski in terms of individual accomplishments, but recently his opportunities for a team trophy have been scant.

A sixth-place finish last year edged the Quakes into their first playoff match since 2012 and a 5-0 thrashing by Vancouver in the Knockout Round soured the accomplishment. Yet a renovation started with a fleet of signings plus a coaching change has been followed up with yet another coaching hire, Mikael Stahre, and a different style along with a few more roster changes.

“I think we have the talent to build out of the back, spread it open and possess it, but I think that we’re most dangerous when we win the ball forty yards from goal and go from there,” said Wondolowski after the Quakes rolled 4-0 over their USL affiliate, Reno 1868 FC, at Avaya Stadium on Saturday. “That’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”

Stahre deployed Wondolowski and his fellow Designated Player Vako along with returnee Danny Hoesen and recent signing Magnus Eriksson in an attacking quartet that racked up four goals in the first half. Hoesen and Eriksson netted two apiece which despite the quality of the opposition is encouraging for a team that managed just 39 goals last year. Only D.C. United and Colorado (31 apiece) scored fewer.

“Us four try to interchange and make it difficult for defenses to handle that, whether it’s overloading one side or however stretching the defense,” said Wondolowski, who will start his 14th MLS season as the league’s second all-time leading scorer (133 goals). “I love that. I think that’s kind of our game plan right now, express ourselves in the final third.”

Gone are stalwarts such as keeper David Bingham and Honduran defender Victor Bernardez. Former backup Andrew Tarbell has taken over in goal, and the back line has added Swiss defender Francois Affolter as well as Joel Qwiberg, who is from Colombia but played most of his career in Sweden -- where Stahre and Eriksson were born -- before coming to MLS.

Wondolowski, 35, believes the roster strength could be close to that of 2012, when the Quakes won the Supporters’ Shield before stumbling out of the playoffs against the Galaxy.

“This is one of the deepest teams I’ve been a part of, and I think competition drives greatness,” he said. “Having a whole new coaching staff, a whole new set of eyes, there’s no one who has a starting job. You have to go in and earn your starting job and your keep. And I think that’s a great thing.”

San Jose Earthquakes:
IN: Joel Qwiberg (Brommapojkarna/SWE), JT Marcinkowski (Georgetown Univ., Homegrown signing), Jimmy Ockford (Reno 1868), Luis Felipe (Reno 1868), Chris Wehan (Reno 1868), Jacob Akanyirige (Homegrown signing), Magnus Eriksson (Djurgarden/SWE, trade), Danny Hoesen (Groningen/NED, permanent transfer), Yeferson Quintana (Penarol/URU, loan), Eric Calvillo (New York Cosmos, transfer), Gilbert Fuentes (Homegrown signing).
OUT: Victor Bernardez, Kip Colvey (Colorado Rapids, Waiver Draft), Cordell Cato, Lindo Mfeka (Reno 1868), Marc Pelosi, Matheus Silva (Swope Park Rangers), Andres Imperiale, Kofi Sarkodie, Leandro Barrera, Marcos Urena (Los Angeles FC, Expansion Draft), David Bingham (LA Galaxy, trade), Darwin Ceren (Houston Dynamo, trade).
2018 Roster:

Goalkeepers: Matt Bersano, JT Marcinkowski, Andrew Tarbell.
Defenders: Francois Affolter, Jacob Akanyirige, Harold Cummings, Florian Jungwirth, Nick Lima, Jimmy Ockford, Yeferson Quintana, Joel Qwiberg.
Midfielders: Fatai Alashe, Eric Calvillo, Simon Dawkins, Luis Felipe, Gilbert Fuentes, Anibal Godoy, Jahmir Hyka, Valeri Qazaishvili, Shea Salinas, Tommy Thompson, Chris Wehan, Jackson Yueill.
Forwards: Quincy Amarikwa, Magnus Eriksson, Danny Hoesen, Chris Wondolowski.

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