CARSON, Calif. -- Always the deflector of attention, Chris Wondolowski had no choice but to revel in the spotlight a little on Thursday.
Wondolowski, the San Jose Earthquakes' prolific forward, was presented as the MLS Most Valuable Player in a ceremony at the Home Depot Center on the heels of a 27-goal season that tied the long-standing, single-season record set by Roy Lassiter in the league's inaugural 1996 season. As he was flanked by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, and his coach, Frank Yallop, Wondolowski relished in the honor, but in his typical manner he played down his accomplishments.
"It's an individual award, but I like to think of it as a team award," Wondolowski said. "The great service that we have, as you can see and count as some of the goals come, there's not many more than one-touch goals. It shows what great teammates I have and what great passers they are. I'm not beating 10 guys. I'm not going to shoot it upper 90. But six yards and in? I can get that."
Wondolowski's record year helped the Earthquakes to the Supporters' Shield, with the best record in the league clinching a place in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League for the club. The 29-year-old striker became the first 20-goal scorer in MLS since Landon Donovan in 2008 and won over the vast majority of voters to capture league honors -- Thierry Henry and Graham Zusi finished a distant second and third, respectively -- and became just the fifth U.S.-born player to win the award.
"There's not a more deserving person to win this," Yallop said. "I thought last year was a good total of 18 goals, but this year, 27 goals is an amazing feat. In this very tough league, to get that many goals and win this award is amazing."
Wondolowski's climb from obscurity to stardom is well documented. An MLS Supplemental Draft fourth-round pick out of Chico State University in 2005, Wondolowski was no more than a reserve with the Houston Dynamo before being traded (along with a draft pick that turned out to be starting San Jose right back Steven Beitashour) to San Jose in 2009 for forward Cam Weaver. He had four goals in his career up to that point. In three-plus seasons since then, he has had an MLS-best 64.
"This is a special moment for us," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "There is a terrific story that Chris brings to our league, one that I think serves as an inspiration for all those tens of millions of people who play this game. To be able to go and get signed by an MLS club, play as a reserve player and then be one of the great players in Major League Soccer...it's something that speaks to his tremendous prowess and his ability on the field.
"There were lots of people in Major League Soccer this year hoping he would reach the milestone he did. It's an unbelievable accomplishment to have 27 goals in a 34-game season. He's well deserved to be an MVP."
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