San Jose's Chris Wondolowski has certainly become a household name in Major League Soccer.
After earning a reputation as a clinical finisher with 18 goals and the Budweiser Golden Boot in 2010, the forward has seen his stock rise on both the domestic and international level. The feisty striker has shown signs of starting a hot streak in the Earthquakes’ last two games, running his total to 10 goals on the season after scoring in each match.
Though those around the league have taken notice in the past two years, the Houston Dynamo are very familiar with their former forward’s ability.
“We all know that he’s a good finisher,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “He’s always in the box and moving, which is the key to him scoring goals.”
Wondolowski was a top scorer for the Dynamo reserves but was not able to take full advantage as a starter in early 2009. Eventually he was traded to San Jose for Cam Weaver.
The trade has not diminished Houston’s familiarity with Wondolowski. Dynamo defenders are mindful of Wondolowski's ability in front of the net and know that if they are going to take care of business at home on Saturday night, stopping the crafty forward is at the top of the list of defensive priorities.
“You always have to know where he is, because he a finisher; he’s dangerous,” said Corey Ashe, who spent two-and-a-half years in Houston with Wondolowski. "If he’s anywhere around that box and your head’s not on a swivel, he’s going to find that ball.”
Wondolowski may be San Jose's leader in the attack — he's just a goal away from tying Landon Donovan for second place on San Jose’s all-time scoring list — but Houston is also wary of the cast of players around him, even with the Earthquakes having seven players on the injured list, which includes Steven Lenhart and Andre Luiz.
Supporting Wondolowski will be the dangerous Simon Dawkins — No. 21 on MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 list — as well as Khari Stephenson and Ramiro Corrales.
“They’re talented, so we have to keep the ball and stay organized,” Ashe said. “We’ve done well in communication … and knowing where players are. I will say we can’t take things for granted and have to play well to get a shutout.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.