At first glance, the goal that broke the MLS career scoring mark wasn't exactly the one you would want to lead a highlight reel, but the reality is Chris Wondolowski's 146th career MLS goal was quintessential Wondolowski.
Chicago goalkeeper David Ousted went up to catch a seemingly harmless ball in the penalty area but dropped it just as Wondolowski was slipping in, having continued to move even though an Ousted catch felt like a foregone conclusion. Wondolowski's hustle was rewarded with a record-breaking toe-poke.
The goal was very much a goalkeeper blunder, but also the byproduct of a player who has made a career out of chasing every loose ball and making every run.
Calling Wondolowski a hustle player wouldn't do his career justice though, and the reality is you don't score 148 club goals on tap-ins and goalkeeper blunders, so the only thing more fitting than the type of goal Wondolowski broke Landon Donovan's record with was him proceeding to finish his record-breaking day with four goals, a display that showed off all the characteristics that helped him transform from a journeyman early in his career to history-making striker.
His first goal showed off Wondolowski's understanding of space, as he settled into an area between two Fire defenders and converted expertly when Shea Salinas found him with the perfect entry pass.
Wondolowski's third goal was equal parts hustle, anticipation and finishing ability, as he raced alongside Cristian Espinoza on a counterattack and onto a loose ball after Espinoza was fouled. Everyone else hesitated but Wondolowski, who calmly stroked home a perfect right-footed shot on the run.
The final goal was a broken play in the penalty area, with Jackson Yueill surveying the landscape looking for an open man, and Wondolowski once again showed his nose for open space, slipping far enough away from Chicago's defenders to give his teammate a clear target.
When the pass came, Wondolowski made no mistake.
San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 18, 2019
Wondolowski's four-goal masterpiece was made even more fitting by the fact he scored just four goals in his first five seasons in MLS, when he was a reserve forward with the Houston Dynamo and the MLS career goals mark seemed about as likely as Donald Trump becoming president of the United States.
He played just five total minutes in his rookie season and made just four starts in his second pro season, when four-goal games and career records were the furthest thing from his mind.
"My rookie year I was envisioning 148 minutes," Wondolowski said on Saturday, after pushing his career goals total to 148. "If I got that, that would have been pretty cool.”
Wondolowski's career awakened when he was traded to the Earthquakes in 2009. It took him a year, but once he became a consistent starter, the goals began to pour in as his confidence grew and his all-around game developed. He was always a fierce competitor, but his natural gifts for making intelligent runs and finishing chances blossomed.
Saturday's performance was also a perfect microcosm of Wondolowski's career because of when it came, in the midst of a tough year that has seen him lose his starting job, forcing him to wait even longer to break the goal record. An injury to Danny Hoesen allowed him to make his first start in six matches, and he didn't play like an entitled star pouting about no longer being a starter, but instead he played with the same hunger that helped him survive as a pro during those tough early years.
Of course, Wondolowski's record-breaking day wouldn't be complete without some of the predictable comments about his infamous miss at the 2014 World Cup, when a clear look on goal that could have helped the United States defeat Belgium in the round of 16 went over the bar. To some, that miss will always define his career, but it has been five years since then and he has shown with the more than 50 goals he has scored since that time that he has put it behind him.
The infamous World Cup miss shouldn't define his career, and Saturday's masterclass was the perfect reminder why. Wondolowski has put together the kind of career he couldn't have even dreamed of, a career that 99 percent of players wish they could have. It hasn't been perfect, but there is no denying it has been special.