Chris Wondolowski’s retirement means that the Quakes must enter a new era and find a new source for their goals. The mercurial striker’s historic career was always going to leave a void that is near impossible to fill, given his longevity at the top level and goalscoring record. With the preseason underway, it’ll be interesting to see who steps up to fill Wondo’s boots.
At the end of the past season, the eternal captain, Wondo announced his retirement after a truly legendary career. His retirement will send the San Jose Earthquakes into a new era where the club will no longer be able to rely on the striker’s consistent goalscoring and leadership.
Jeremy Ebobisse’s transfer to the Quakes represents the front office’s planning for the future after Wondo, but have made little moves since to help fill the void. There are other players on the team, like Cade Cowell and Benji Kikanovic, who should also chip in their fair share of goals. It does seem that this preseason will be important in figuring out who can be the next Quakes’ next mercurial goal getter.
Currently in Santa Barbara, the team has been preparing for the upcoming season with the team already playing one friendly. In that friendly, there were glimpses of who could replace Wondo’s goals with multiple players scoring. Cowell, Ebobosse, Ousseni Bouda and Siad Haji all scored with Bouda and Cowell scoring braces.
While the competition that they played wasn’t extraordinary, the clues are there on who can best aid the team score in the post-Wondo era. Will it be Ebobisse, Cade or a mixture of other players who will best bring the goals for the Quakes.
Ebobisse has always been regarded as a player full of potential since he got drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2017. Which makes the trade the Quakes pulled off for Ebobisse even more impressive, showing how the team sees Ebobisse as the team’s future.
In his four years in the MLS, Ebobisse has scored 27 goals and has hit the double digit goals scored in one season in 2019. A bit of a throwback type of striker, Ebobisse is an excellent play finisher with his aerial abilities ranking amongst the best in the MLS. The only area where Ebobisse is lacking is in his hold up play, as he isn’t as involved in the build up as Kikanovic for example.
He does have shades of Wondo in that ability to get the tiniest of spaces to fire off a shot and with more creativity in the wings and midfield, the chances should be there for him to finish them. Having a striker, like Kikanovic, who can be more of a playmaker should give Ebobisse the freedom to score. Still just 24 years old, Ebobisse has time to hone his game and become Wondo’s successor.
After a blockbuster trade to bring him to the team, Ebobisse should be trusted by the team to be their present and future. Almeyda should be able to get the most out of him, but should let Ebobisse be himself and not an Andy Ríos clone.
Cade Cowell is the most exciting prospect that the Quakes have ever produced with his potential exciting fans since his debut last season. From his first appearance, Cade’s potential has always made him a prime candidate to replace Wondo long term.
By far Cade’s top quality, his physicality is not only impressive for a player his age, but is a standout in the league. Cade’s ability to either race past opponents or bully them is something that isn’t seen too often in players in their first few seasons. The most glaring issues for Cade are his decision making and ball control, but those are issues that can be mended as he gets more playing time in the MLS.
While not an out and out striker, Cade’s best position is likely on the wing, allowing him to cut in on his favored right foot and get in the box. A winger will not often be seen as a team’s main goal scoring option, but having a winger who is a threat will stretch a defense and open up chances for others. Cade’s six goals and assists are remarkable given his age and the way that he has been thrown into the fire by the team.
A highly regarded prospect throughout his time in the Quakes’ academy, Cade has already made the MLS All Star team and will continue to grow. His time at the Quakes may be over soon as his potential will likely draw the eyes of European clubs.
There is a high probability that a mixture of other players will step up and give the team a slew of options that they haven’t had since 2012. Having more than one proven goalscorer can only make a team stronger, as it would draw defenses away from one player and open the field to more players.
Last season, Chofis was the team’s top scorer with 12 goals and could definitely repeat that feat, especially alongside threatening wingers and strikers who can give him the space to operate. Kikanovic was incredible towards the end of last season and while he may not be a constant scorer, he could be the hold up player the team needs. The dependable Cristian Espinoza is a winger who can create chances at an elite level, but can score goals given the chance despite not being an elite scorer.
Bouda is a very interesting prospect and will surely get a chance to play in the first team this season, after impressing in the preseason. It would be difficult, and wrong, to put so much pressure on a rookie to step up and be the team’s goal scoring outlet, but Bouda should represent the team’s future. Haji is in desperate need of more playing time as well and should chip in with a few goals, but he’s more of a creator than finisher.
The team does have players who can be threats and this could give space for Cade and Ebobisse to operate in. Getting goals out of a decent amount of players was the hallmark of the Quakes’ 2012 side that won the Supporters’ Shield.
Wondo’s retirement was always going to leave a hole that the team would struggle to fill despite new additions. Fans are, understandably, disappointed with the lack of a big transfer to fill Wondo’s shoes, but the team does have players who could at least make Wondo’s departure less painful. All this makes the team’s preseason in Santa Barbara all the more intriguing.
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