San Jose Earthquakes star forward Chris Wondolowski started his non-collegiate soccer career with the Chico Rooks of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).
The rest is history.
Whether it’s his ownership of 135 career Major League Soccer (MLS) goals or 11 United States Men’s National Team goals in 35 appearances, the success stories about Wondolowski write themselves. It’s the first leg of his career that begs intrigue.
Wondolowski spent his college years at Division II’s Chico State University and with the Rooks. He scored 17 goals and assisted 10 times with the NPSL side, helping his team to a regular season title. After being taken in the MLS Supplemental Draft, Wondolowski sat for four and a half years before seeing the pitch. He’s a success story for those with more humble soccer beginnings.
“One, enjoy the situation,” Wondolowski said. “Enjoy the grind. It will always be a grind, but when you get an opportunity, try to make the most of it. There’s many paths to your goal and many paths to the journey. That’s kind of the fun part about it.”
Likely the NPSL’s most notable alumnus, Wondolowski has seen the league’s progression since his time with the Rooks in 2004. Fourteen years later, Wondolowski shared his beliefs on where the NPSL stands in the American soccer system, which produced his historic career and story.
“It’s great,” Wondolowski said. “I think [the NPSL] just needs to continue to make great strides and continue to get better and just being a great stepping stone and continuing to have play at a high level. I think many guys have used it along the way including myself and I loved it.”
Nearly the entirety of Wondo’s life and soccer career has been spent in his home region of Northern California. From his birthplace in Danville to Chico and San Jose, he knows the unique soccer culture well.
“I think the passion and knowledge behind it,” Wondolowski said. “They have a great community following behind it and it’s a multi-pod off different cultures and I think that it helps with the style and diversity.”
For his 14th MLS season, Wondolowski enters with the same mindset he has since 2004. He wants to make his team the best he can in whatever capacity he can.
That’s right, the man that is second all-time in MLS goals is willing to come off the bench or play part-time. After 300 games played, Wondolowski stands as American soccer’s anomaly.
“I know that my time is numbered and the games are starting to become numbered,” Wondolowski said. “So, I want to enjoy it more and more.”
Jeff Helfrich/ISNSoccer.com – contributor
Photo Credit: Ken Tishenkel/ISNSoccer.com