Not since the inaugural season — when Roy Lassiter did it 16 years ago — had an MLS player found the back of the opposing net 27 times.
But that changed late October.
“It means a lot,” said Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski, who tied Lassiter’s single-season scoring record this year while helping his team rumble to the best record in the league. “But it doesn’t mean much if you’re not holding that MLS Cup championship at the end.”
That quest for said coveted Cup kicks off Sunday.
Posting a league-best 19 wins on their way to the Supporter’s Shield, San Jose earned its second trip to the postseason since 2005 — a postseason that will start in Los Angeles this weekend in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals against the rival Galaxy.
Game 2 against Robbie Keane and Co. is slated for Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara. But San Jose coach Frank Yallop isn’t basking in recent feats.
“You could talk all you want about, ‘You gotta keep going, momentum, and you gotta win ...,’ no, you don’t,” Yallop said. “You gotta win the playoffs. We’ve done obviously enough to have the best record in the league. So that job’s done.”
His players concur.
“At the end of the day, the series gets played in between the lines,” defender Jason Hernandez said.
But if the rigors of the regular season have evidenced anything, it’s that Yallop seldom loses back-to-back — something his team has to avoid if they hope to advance. His Quakes club hasn’t lost two consecutive games all year, and went unbeaten in its final nine games of the regular season.
Yet despite besting the Galaxy twice while earning a draw this year, there is a clear game plan the Quakes will look to heed heading to the Home Depot Center.
“The conceding of goals is what we’ll tighten up. I think we gotta make sure we’re not leaking goals,” Yallop said. “We’re a team that attacks. The way we play is open.”
But what Wondolowski and forwards Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon specialized in this season was finding the back of the opposite net — a season that was Wondo’s best.
“Yeah,” he said if 2012 was his best year professionally. “We’ll find out in a couple weeks.”