Wondolowski the Breakout Star of the Year

Former reserve's meteoric rise leads to Golden Boot title

The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with out Best of 2010 awards, running Dec. 13 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of Major League Soccer and US international players, including Biggest Controversy, Broadcaster Call of the Year and the Moment of the Year.

Today the focus falls on the Breakout Star of the Year, and there was little argument that San Jose's Chris Wondolowski was the man of the moment in 2010.

Before returning to his native Bay Area in summer of 2009, Chris Wondolowski wasn’t even a regular in MLS, much less a proven goal-scorer. He had never started more than four games in a season, buried way down the depth charts of Dominic Kinnear’s squads behind guys like Brian Ching, Dwayne De Rosario, Joseph Ngwenya and Alejandro Moreno.

For four-and-a-half seasons, happy-go-lucky Wondo took it like a man and just waited for his chance, taking his frustrations out on reserve-league defenses and getting occasional run-outs as a sub in Houston. But even Kinnear knew he had a natural finisher in his midst – he just didn’t have a place to put him.

WATCH: MLSsoccer.com discusses the award

Frank Yallop did. Wondo quickly found the starting XI after being dealt back to San Jose and immediately seized his chance in his most significant minutes since college. Wondolowski collected his sixth goal of the 2010 season by the Earthquakes’ eighth game – already rendering the campaign the most prolific of his career. And he was just getting going.

He closed the regular season by scoring every single one of his team’s 10 goals through its final eight games – including two stunning hat tricks in less than a month. Out of Wondolowski’s 18 goals, nine were game-winners, good for tops in the league and perhaps the biggest reason this career reserve forced his way into the league MVP debate.

WATCH: The Rise of Wondolowski

But once the dust had settled, Wondo had done far more than that: He carried the Quakes back into the postseason almost single-handedly and had also overtaken Edson Buddle – the virtual wall-to-wall leader in the Golden Boot race – to become the most unlikely winner of the scoring title in league history. Who says nice guys never finish first?

Second place: Sebastien Le Toux

The lanky Frenchman with the thick accent was always a fan favorite in Seattle. But now he’s a legend in Philadelphia. Le Toux had a hand in 71 percent of the Union’s goals (14 goals, 11 assists) in their inaugural season to become the face of the fledgling franchise.

Third place: Andy Najar

From academy standout to youngest-ever MLS Rookie of the Year in just nine months, it was a whirlwind year for Najar, who was the brightest spot on a season D.C. United would rather forget. The Honduran-born winger led DC with seven goals in all competitions and showed boatloads of potential. Is a US call in the cards?

Honorable Mention: Dane Richards, Justin Braun, Tim Ream, Brek Shea.

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