In the 24th minute of last match of the regular season, San Jose's 29-year-old striker Chris Wondolowski scored his 27th goal of the season with a penalty kick, matching Roy Lassiter's MLS single-season record that has stood since the long-ago time of 1996. And as anti-climactic as doing it with a penalty may be, it was not without its moderate bit of controversy.
The sequence of events that led to Wondolowski's goal started when Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts came out of his box, but failed to reach the ball before San Jose's Steven Lenhart did. Lenhart then powered his way around Ricketts and into the box before tumbling down as Ricketts challenged for the ball.
The camera angle isn't ideal, but Portland fans were obviously quite upset about the decision. Was it a soft penalty to help Wondolowski reach the record? Was it MLS refs being MLS refs? Or was it a good call? Whatever the case, MLS didn't really care about pesky things like "being right" as long as it got Wondolowski his 27th goal.
Couldn't care less that it was a penalty. If you're good enough to hit it, then it counts just the same. #WondoWatch
— MLS Insider (@MLS_Insider) October 27, 2012
Regardless of all that, the impressiveness of Wondolowski's feat can't be overlooked. When Lassiter set the record as a member of the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny in the league's inaugural season, he had the legendary Carlos Valderrama supplying passes and arguably a very different level of competition to rocket past. Others have come close in the 16 years since (Stern John and Mamadou Diallo each scored 26 in 1998 and 2000, Carlos Ruiz had 24 in 2002), but none have matched Lassiter as the league has grown and improved.
Though Wondolowski wasn't able to reach 28 goals and have the record all to himself, 27 isn't bad for a guy who only scored seven times in his first six seasons in the league (and 61 in the last three).