5:55 with Chris Wondolowski — 

21 10 2011

I had a chance to talk to San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski following his appearance on Chronicle Live on Thursday. For those that don’t know, Wondo is in the middle of another great year and was recently awarded the MVP and Humanitarian of the Year awards by the Quakes.
I have to say, Wondo is super cool with his time and very accommodating toward us media folk. Here’s a transcript of my chat with the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner. (Picture below is courtesy of Frank Stazl, uber-PR dude for the Quakes. You can follow them on Twitter @sjearthquakes. You probably should).

Q: Tell me what it how much it meant to win the awards.
CW: It means a lot. I think this team is a good team so to get the MVP, it means a lot. It really means a lot to win the Humanitarian Award because I feel that we have such a great community throughout the Bay Area, and I love to give back as much as I can, wherever I can. It’s good to be involved in the community because there are some sincere and great people as well

Q: Does the Humanitarian Award hold more weight for you considering that this is your hometown, and not just the town of the team you play for?
CW: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s why it means so much more. Because, like you said, I grew up in this community. I was one of them and I still feel like I am a part of this community. And I know I’ll be here even after my career is over so it’s just nice to be involved with them and to be honest, I really do believe that it is a great community and there are a lot of good people there.

Q: Wondo, the year didn’t pan out the way the team wanted. With one game left on the schedule, tell me how you feel about the season that is winding down.
CW: Yeah, you look back and it’s a bit frustrating throughout this year because we really did believe we had a very good team and we thought we should have done better. At times, we didn’t hold down leads as well as we should have and we got punished for it. And we were unlucky with some injuries that continued to pop up on us. But something that I am proud of is that it is a great group of guys and individuals, and it’s fun to be a part of this team. I commend all of them for not giving up. We fought on every game and to be honest, the last two, three months, we’ve played some of the best soccer at the end. It just happens to be too little, too late.

Q: How did you stay focused on your task as a goal-scorer with the team struggling the way that is did?
CW: It just comes down to, I’m a very competitive person; I think our whole team is. So, every game we knew it was a battle. And we challenged each other to work as hard as we can and be ready to play our next game. Even when things aren’t going as well as you’d like, we still have to go out there and work hard and get back to the basics.

Q: Last season came out of nowhere, Chris. How much does it mean to you that you could back up a season like 2010 with a 2011 that was just as good?
CW: It means a lot. It just helped reassure that I’m the player that I believe I am. It’s a good feeling. A lot of credit goes to my teammates, I think they had a lot to do with it. A lot of the goals were one-touch or two-touch goals where they gave great passes and could find me in the box.

Q: Talk a little about your goalkeeper, Jon Busch, the team’s defensive MVP.
CW: He’s meant a whole lot to the team. He’s kind of the heart of the team. He comes every game, and every day at practice and works his tail off. He’s kept us in so many games, I just feel bad that we couldn’t help him out even more because he’s done very well and sometimes the stats don’t show how well he’s played; he’s probably been one of the best goalkeepers day-in and day-out for the saves that he’s made.

Q: With the season winding down, and looking forward to 2012, does this team have the personnel in place to make a serious run at another MLS Cup?
CW: Oh absolutely. I really feel there is a great core group of guys that are going to be with this team for a while and help us go in the right direction. I do think there will be a couple of personnel changes, and I think they’ll be some good things for the team. And I think we’ll going to get some good players that will also help. So, with all that in place, I really think 2012 is going to be a great year for us.

Earthquakes beat the Wizards

15 08 2010

For those wondering, Jason Hernandez received a red card in the 88th minute for “violent conduct.” He called it a spur of the moment thing — he said the guy he clocked with an elbow was asking it for it  — it wouldn’t surprise me honestly, Kansas City was diving the entire night.


Busy weekend continues with a nice 1-0 win for the Earthquakes Saturday night against Kansas City. Goal by Chris Wondolowski in the 35th minute for the difference. I’m posting the story I filed today and a link to it online tomorrow when it’s officially out. Also, there’s video of Frank Yallop below and Chris talking briefly about his goal at the bottom of this post. Peace out.

Quakes back on the winning track

By Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff

Nothing like a win to makes things all better.

Coming into Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Wizards, the San Jose Earthquakes were reeling — winners of only one of their past seven games, the Quakes were bruised mentally, battered physically and seemingly put together by duct tape due to injury.

Injuries to the likes of Ramiro Corrales, Chris Leitch, Steven Beltashour and Ike Oparra forced head coach Frank Yallop to put together a starting-11 that featured newcomers Tim Ward and Khari Stephenson and move players like Bobby Convey from their conventional positions to spots were the team was in need.

But if there’s one thing San Jose has shown this season is that Yallop can prepare his team to play defense, especially at home. And that’s what it took Saturday night — an exceptional defensive performance, highlighted by the play of goalkeeper Joe Cannon, and a timely goal by Chris Wondolowski propelled San Jose to a huge 1-0 win over the visiting Wiz.

“I’m very happy for our guys,” Yallop said. “I’m very pleased with the three points. And it puts us right back in the (playoff) picture and that’s all we needed to see.”

It was a game the Quakes needed to win, coming off a heart-breaking loss to the Colorado Rapids the week before in which an own-goal did them in.

San Jose came out like they knew that. Offensively in the first half, the Earthquakes created a handful of chances throughout — by the 30th minute, Cornell Glen alone had three clear goal-scoring opportunities but failed on all of them.

But Wondolowski came to the rescue in the 35th minute, one-timing a pretty lob from the newly-acquired Stephenson inside the Kansas City box for the 1-0 lead. It was Wondolowski’s team-leading 7th goal.

“He put right on a platter,” Wondolowski said of Stephenson’s pass. “Goal scoring is contagious. Hopefully I can get back on a steak and get it going again. It’s great to get that feeling back.”

The second half belonged to Cannon and the line judge.

For his part, Cannon came up with some significant saves to preserve the team’s fifth home shutout — none bigger than his save of Teal Bunbury in the 59th minute.

Three times in the second half the Wiz had goals disallowed by the line judge’s flag on an offside call, much to the chagrin of the Kansa City bench. But despite a red card to Jason Hernandez in the 88th minute and four minutes of stoppage time, the Quakes had just enough to hold on for the victory and the much-needed three points.

Cannon and Wondolowski will get the headlines with their clutch play, but several Quakes performed very well Saturday night. Convey was terrific playing left back, despite a mistake early in the game that almost cost his team a goal. Brandon McDonald was moved to a central defender position for the game and performed very much to Yallop’s liking. Hernandez was also solid defensively and Arturo Alvarez created chances from his midfield position the entire evening.

Huge doesn’t begin to describe the win — not only were they reeling, but a loss or draw with the league’s best team, the L.A Galaxy, coming in next week, would have surely shut the door on San Jose’s playoff aspirations in 2010.

But now, playing with the confidence that comes after a win, the showdown the Galaxy (a team they tied 2-2 in Los Angeles) appears to be a winnable game for San Jose.

And that would be even bigger than huge.

Earthquakes Cruise past NY Red Bulls

10 05 2010

San Jose made it look easy against the Red Bulls Saturday night at Buck Shaw, handing New York a 4-0 beat down. Couples of notes from the game before you read the game story (and give Frank Yallop a little time with the video):

• The Sharks locked up a spot in the WCF last night with a 2-1 win. As we headed in to interview the Earthquake players after the game the T.V in the dressing room had the game on. I, and the rest of the media, members watched the final five minutes. My favorite part was when a toweled Joe Cannon, after giving fist bumps to his teammates, sat in front of us on one of the recliners and caught some of the game like a true SJ fan.
• Shout out to the Earthquakes fans — the paid attendance was 9,711 … not too shabby considering a certain team in the Bay Area who’s having trouble getting people to the go to their park. Even today, Sunday, with Dallas Braden’s perfect game, only 12,000 made it to the Coliseum. Step your game up, Oakland. San Jose fans have shown they’ll fill up the seats … even for soccer. Can you imagine how many fans they’d bring if they had a team in San Jose?
• Another shout out to the San Jose Earthquake players. They make a great effort to reach out to the fans. Post game you can see several signing hundreds of autographs as they trickle into the locker room. You can’t ask more from a sports franchise. Story time. Stick until the end and catch some Chris Wondolowski video.

Earthquakes cruise past the Red Bulls
By Julio Lara * Daily Journal Staff

 Two weeks in a row a team with double-digits points has walked into Buck Shaw stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes. And for two straight weeks, they’ve left with nothing — no goals, zero wins.

Their latest performance against the New York Red Bulls, a team that came into Saturday’s match with a 5-1-0 record, was the most impressive yet for the Quakes. An early break led to a man advantage for 77 minutes of play and San Jose took full advantage cruising to a 4-0 victory.

It’s been a while since you can use “cruising” and “Earthquakes” in the same sentence; but that’s exactly what San Jose did Saturday night.

“I think tonight is exactly how I wanted (us) to play,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “I think we have to, especially at home, we have to be the aggressor. This team is starting to believe that they can dominate teams here. I think we have to make it difficult for anybody to play here.”

The win moves the Earthquakes to 4-2-0 and 12 points — a total they didn’t reach until 14 games into the 2009 season.

It was a great win considering that at times, it’s difficult to do what you’re “supposed” to in sports.

Saturday night the Earthquakes were expected to compete at home against one of the East’s best teams — but that all changed 13 minutes in when Luke Sassano’s reckless foul on Bobby Convey led to a straight red card and expulsion from the game.

Now with a man advantage the whole dynamic of the game changed — anything less than a win would have been disappointing.

San Jose wasted no time in putting the pressure on New York. Ryan Johnson and Andre Ruiz had good scoring opportunities midway through the first half with the Quakes dominating possession.

Despite their play the Quakes looked like they were headed into halftime to nothing to show for their work. That is, until their last offensive wave in the 44th minute. In it, Convey curled a beautiful ball to Johnson who one-timed it into the New York net for the 1-0 lead. As passes go, Convey’s couldn’t have been hand-placed any better. It was the start of a terrific night for the midfielder, who finished the contest with three assists.

“It was just a good build-up play by us,” Johnson said. “Those things are what we work on at practice. It’s nice that it’s finally paying off. I can’t be nothing but satisfied tonight.”

The goal was the first of the season for Johnson who led the Quakes in scores in 2009.

San Jose might have played their best offensive half of the year in the game’s final 45 minutes.

Their three goals were all scored in different ways, displaying great versatility on offense.

The first score came on a terrific individual effort by Joey Gjertsen in the 54th minute that featured a great cut back to his right and a strong finish from just inside the box that snuck underneath the New York goalkeeper.

The second was a sensational transition goal in which Convey led a fast-break style offense down three-quarters of the pitch. Ramiro Corrales received credit for a pinpoint low cross that Chris Wondolowski tapped in at the doorstep for the 3-0 advantage. The goal was the fourth in four starts for the white-hot Wondolowski.

“You have to chalk (the goal) up to the teammates,” Wondolowski said. “Ramiro just put it on the platter for me (with a) great ball across and I just had to tap it in.”

The exclamation point of the half came in the 85th minute on a corner kick that Bobby Burling headed in for his first of the season.

At the heart of all the San Jose scores was Convey, who is enjoying arguably his best season as an Earthquake.

“He’s right back to where he was three, four years ago (when he was) playing in England,” Yallop said. “He feels good now so expect good things from Bobby over the season. And they will be there.”

Lost in the offensive output by the Earthquakes was their defensive effort. Joe Cannon collected his third straight MLS shutout at home. He faced only two shots in the second half.

“Obviously the red card for them makes a difference in the match,” Yallop said. “But I think sometimes you don’t tend to play well when that happens. I think we played our best game, just in ball movement and the desire to win it.”

“It’s easy to feel confident when the team is playing so well,” Wondolowski said. “I’m just able to do my part, just try to add some energy, try to keep the ball for us. The team does a great job, fighting, scraping, and today I think we kept the ball really well.”

Wasn’t Pretty But Earthquakes Win

3 05 2010

Last season the Colorado Rapids were a pain in the Earthquakes’ backside. It wasn’t pretty Saturday night, but San Jose held on. Story follows along with a little video from the post game press conference with head coach Frank Yallop. You can catch it tomorrow at a news rack near you or here.

By Julio Lara

Daily Journal Staff

 After two seasons of hanging out near the bottom of the standings the San Jose Earthquakes will take the W’s any way they can get them — they’re all huge.

Saturday night’s 1-0 win against the Colorado Rapids was a prime example of a game that the Quakes did not play all that well in but somehow found a way to win.

And if you ask anyone in the San Jose locker room, they’ll take winning ugly over losing pretty any day of the week.

“It wasn’t the best game I thought that we played all year but it was a workman’s-like game,” said Chris Wondolowski, the man responsible for giving the Quakes the win.  “And to honest it’s one the proudest wins I’ve had,” he said.

“We didn’t play particularly well, but, fantastic result,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “We had a few days where we’ve played pretty well and loss so to play not-great and get three points is very rewarding for us as a team.”

Colorado has been a head-scratcher as of late for the Quakes. Last season the Rapids stole a pair of points from San Jose in games that the Earthquakes led. So to come away with the victory might be further indication that San Jose is actually turning things around in 2010.

“I think we showed good resilience,” said goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who recorded his second shutout of the season — a feat the Quakes didn’t accomplish until late August of 2009. “(We were) in really good shape all night, really good discipline. We didn’t give them much. I think the maturity of this team is growing.”

The match was a defensively battle. The teams combined for only seven shots on goal, five of which belonged to the Quakes despite Colorado controlling possession for the majority of the game.

With their touches few and far between the Quakes were left to make the most of their opportunities.

They did just that in the 33rd minute on a pair of great passes and an even better finish by Wondolowski.

Ramiro Corrales’ pass from the defensive third was tipped by Ryan Johnson near midfield and found Wondolowski who fired a shot past Colorado keeper Matt Pickens. The missile struck the crossbar and ended up inside the net for the game’s only goal.

The goal was Wondolowski’s third in three games.

“Wondo is a good player, that’s the reason he’s here,” Yallop said. “So I’m very happy for him. He’s an unsung hero, doesn’t get a bunch of press and doesn’t say a word, just works really really hard so it’s a nice for a fellow like him to get the headlines and he deserves it.”

The Earthquakes defense did enough to hold on in the second half taking advantage of the lead to tighten things up even further and Cannon was never really threatened.

“I think we match up pretty well with Colorado,” said defender Jason Hernandez. “We like that match-up (and) for whatever reason we’re able to deal with their pace up top with Omar (Cummings) and Conor (Casey). We were really able to neutralize them,” he said.

San Jose beats New England 2-0

20 04 2010

The Earthquakes don’t look like the same Earthquakes I saw a couple of weeks ago against Real Salt Lake. I must say, I felt that were much improved. While I did miss my boy Arturo Alvarez (who was scratched because of an injury) it was nice to see youngsters like Wondolowski and Opara step their games up.

Credit goes to the SJEarthquakes website for the picture below. As always, the link to the story on my newspaper’s website is here.

San Jose Earthquakes off to good start
By Julio Lara Daily Journal Staff
Don’t look now, but the San Jose Earthquakes are starting to put things together.
It’s still very early in the 2010 campaign but the Quakes played their best game of the young season defeating the New England Revolution 2-0 Saturday night. 

With the win San Jose moves to 2-1 and avenges two losses to the Revolution in 2009. 

“(It’s) one of our better performances since I’ve been back here,” said Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop.

He might be right. San Jose hadn’t looked this good, this balanced in quite some time. Offensively they pressured New England the entire night and defensively Joe Cannon and the Quakes recorded their first shutout since October of 2009 — not surprisingly it was also the last time San Jose won a game at home.

The 2-0 outcome could have been greater if it wasn’t for the play of New England goalkeeper Preston Burpo who was superb for the Revolution in the first half. 

Twice Burpo denied Chris Wondolowski, who started in place of the injured Arturo Alvarez up front, on point blank chances in the box. Wondolowski’s opportunities were a product of some aggressive play by the Quakes. Steven Beltashour pushed up on a handful of occasions from his fullback position. His play opened things up nicely for San Jose. 

But the Earthquakes had nothing to show for their great effort going into halftime.

“I thought it was a great display of fighting for the ball tonight,” Yallop said. “Good things happen when you do that. We got in and regrouped and said hey, you’ve got to do exactly the same thing you did the first half.”

The first goal-scoring opportunity of the second half actually belonged to the Revolution. Only a spectacular save by Bobby Convey, who was manning the far post on a corner kick by New England, preserved the 0-0 score. After the save the Quakes went back to work on offense.

Their persistence paid off in the 57th minute and it was Wondolowski who was rewarded. The goal was actually sparked by the play and strength of Ryan Johnson who won the ball just inside the offensive third of the field, fighting off a New England defender in the process. He then threaded a beautiful ball to Wondolowski whose superb run opened him up just enough to receive the Johnson pass inside the 18 and finish with the right foot for the 1-0 lead.

The goal was the first of the season for Wondolowski who’s been playing well as of late for San Jose.

Defensively the Earthquakes looked like a different team than the one that gave up three goals to Real Salt Lake in the season opener — their was a cohesiveness to the group, better communication and a Cannon was rarely challenged for the majority of the contest.

San Jose added to their tally in the 72nd minute on a corner kick off the foot of Convey who found the head of rookie Ike Opara for his second goal of the season.

Cannon made some incredible saves as the game was dying down to preserve the shutout for the Earthquakes. 

Next up for San Jose — a trip south to face Chivas USA.