Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Wondolowski 1 Strike Away from Goal Milestone

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 15, 2016

Apr 13, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) waves to supporters after the game against the New York Red Bulls at Avaya Stadium. The San Jose Earthquakes defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer prides itself on week-to-week unpredictability and parity from top to bottom, but the one constant that hasn't changed over the last seven seasons is Chris Wondolowski's knack for scoring goals. 

The San Jose Earthquakes forward can jump into sole possession of fourth place on the MLS all-time scoring chart with a tally on Saturday in Portland. Wondolowski moved level with Ante Razov on 114 goals with his strike in San Jose's 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. 

The 33-year-old striker usually doesn't produce tallies that end up on the weekly highlight reel, but he does find the back of the net on a consistent basis like no other player has been able to. 

Apr 13, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) kicks the ball against New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe Martins (8) during the second half at Avaya Stadium. The San Jose Earthquakes defeated the New York Red Bulls 2
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Starting with his 18 goals in 2010, Wondolowski has reached the double-digit goal mark in six consecutive years. If his current pace keeps up, the San Jose forward will extend that streak to seven years before the summer begins. 

The veteran forward receives plenty of criticism from the United States men's national team fan base for his lack of production at the international level, but he has never let those performances affect him in MLS. 

Some may say if you've seen one Wondo goal, you've seen them all. The United States international is famous for featuring in the poacher role in the final third. Many of Wondolowski's strikes have been produced by smart runs in front of the net and tidy skill on the ball. The current Golden Boot leader has struck from close range on five occasions in 2016. 

In addition to being ever-present in the penalty area, Wondolowski has tallied 57 of his 114 strikes on the road and 57 on his home pitch. Those totals make him the sixth-best home scorer and third-best road scorer in league history. He only needs five road strikes to break Landon Donovan's all-time record of 61. 

The player who spent the majority of his early career in Houston has a good chance to move ahead of Razov on the all-time scoring chart on Saturday. The forward netted his second goal of the young season against Week 7 opponent Portland on March 13. 

Mar 13, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) between plays against the Portland Timbers during the second half at Avaya Stadium. The San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

If the 33-year-old scores in double figures again in 2016 and produces the same high numbers in 2017, he could break Landon Donovan's mark of 144 goals. While we're still a long way from seeing that happen, it's possible Wondolowski could go down as the league's top scorer when his career ends. 

Another major milestone could be recorded in Week 7 if Brian Carroll is named to Philadelphia's starting 11. If the central midfielder steps on the pitch against Seattle on Saturday, he'll become the sixth player in league history to make 350 appearances. Kyle Beckerman is the all-time leader entering Week 7, with 382 games played. 

There are plenty of other things worth keeping an eye on in Week ,7 and we'll have a look at them below in our weekend preview. 

 

Week 7 Schedule

LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMas)

Montreal Impact at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Toronto FC at D.C. United (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

New York City FC at Columbus Crew (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

New York Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Vancouver Whitecaps at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Philadelphia Union at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

New England Revolution at Orlando City (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) 

 

Players to Watch 

Sebastian Lletget, AM, LA Galaxy

Everyone spent their week injecting an opinion into the Nigel de Jong conversation, but the Galaxy have used the majority of the last five days to prepare for a difficult road trip to Houston on Friday. 

Apr 10, 2016; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget (17) and Portland Timbers defender Chris Klute (15) chase down the ball in the first half of the game at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dynamo have been an exciting team to watch so far in 2016, but they have displayed plenty of defensive weaknesses. 

Look for Sebastian Lletget to exploit the deficiencies in the Houston back line in order to set up Gyasi Zardes and Mike Magee in the box. The former West Ham United player showed signs of that in the final third against Portland. If the Galaxy are aggressive in attack early on at BBVA Compass Stadium, they could pounce for three or four goals. 

 

Shkelzen Gashi, FW, Colorado Rapids

One of the major surprises so far this season has been the form of the Colorado Rapids. 

Apr 13, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Shkelzen Gashi (11) and Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara (3) fight for the ball during the first half of the match at Children's Mercy Park. Colorado won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Me
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Rapids will be in a great spot to pick up three more points on Saturday against the struggling New York Red Bulls at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. 

Offseason acquisition Shkelzen Gashi should cause plenty of problems to the Red Bulls defense as he looks to build on his first strike of the year from Wednesday's win over Sporting KC. The 27-year-old will line up on the left side of a 4-2-3-1 formation, but he'll also drift inside to try to link up with Marco Pappa and Luis Solignac. 

 

Tranquillo Barnetta, AM, Philadelphia Union

The entrance of Tranquillo Barnetta in the 63rd minute changed the complexion of Philadelphia's 2-1 win over Orlando City in Week 6.

Apr 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta (10) celebrates after a late goal during the second half against the Orlando City FC at Talen Energy Stadium. The Union won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TOD
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The scorer of a tremendous game-winning free-kick is working his way back to full fitness, and if he starts against Seattle, he'll give the Union a chance to leave CenturyLink Field with a point.

Barnetta and forward C.J. Sapong should combine well in the middle of the park, and that could lead to more space on the flanks for the wingers to work in. 

 

Nuno Coelho, CB, Sporting Kansas City 

In order to win the battle for first place in the Western Conference on Sunday night at Toyota Stadium, Sporting Kansas City need a strong performance out of center back Nuno Coelho. 

Mar 20, 2016; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting KC defender Nuno Coelho (12) dribbles the ball against Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) during the first half at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Portuguese defender has been one of the few consistent figures in defense this season, and he will face his toughest task to date against the dynamic FC Dallas attack even if Mauro Diaz doesn't start. 

Handling the movement of Michael Barrios, Maximiliano Urruti, Fabian Castillo and Tesho Akindele will be quite the difficult task for the 30-year-old. As long he prepares better than the Timbers did for their Wednesday loss to FC Dallas, Coelho stands a fighting chance on Sunday. 

 

Game of the Week

Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas

There is potential for attacking fireworks on both ends of the pitch at Toyota Stadium on Sunday night. 

The FC Dallas quartet mentioned above has found the back of the net on six occasions in Diaz's absence. If Diaz finds his way into the starting 11, Oscar Pareja will be able to bring one of those offensive weapons off the bench if FC Dallas struggle to break the Coelho-led Sporting KC defense. 

Sporting KC also boast a few in-form attackers in Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber. Dwyer's movement across the pitch has been fantastic through six weeks, and he is sure to cause some trouble against center back Matt Hedges. Feilhaber's passing may be able to carve holes against what should be a tight FC Dallas back four. 

The battle in the middle of the park will be intriguing as well, as both sides possess some of the toughest central midfielders in the league. With Soni Mustivar dealing with a hamstring knock, per the MLS injury report, the pressure will be on Roger Espinoza to organize the Sporting KC midfield and force things out wide. Any combination of Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa and Carlos Gruezo will try to wreak havoc against Feilhaber and his playmaking abilities. 

The winner of the contest in Frisco, Texas, will take control of first place in the West. FC Dallas lead the West with 14 points, while Sporting KC sit two points back in second. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.