Saturday, September 22, 2012

Will the 'Wondo Leap' Catch On in MLS?; Top 9 MLS Stadiums Most Likely to Receive Them

The other night versus the Portland Timbers, Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes, the leading scorer in MLS, scored a goal and ran for the fans in the stands to hug them.  It was an emotional match for Wondolowski, as he watched most of it from the sidelines.

In this match, he was scheduled to rest and be a substitute, if needed.  The Quakes did need him.  Wondolowski came in and scored two goals to erase a two goal deficit and give his team one-point in the standings for a tied game.

His run to hug fans after his goal tied the game was reminiscent of the most famous runs and jumps into the stands for all of sports, the 'Lambeau Leap.'  The Lambeau Leap has become a tradition in Green Bay, Wisconsin for pro football players of the Green Bay Packers after scoring a touchdown.

Wondolowski is affectionally called Wondo.  He's been one of the premier scorers for MLS in each of the last three seasons of MLS and has made a solid career and reputation for himself, including stints on the U.S. Men's National Team.  His background is Polish and Native-American.

The fans were in high rally mode on the night of Wondo's two goal comeback.  When Wondo scored, they went bonkers.  The stadium was packed and they were waiting to bust at the seams with a goal.  When Wondo made his leap, after his second goal (at the 6-minute, 20-second mark of the video), he went in to the stands forward with arms extended.  It looked like the right 'leap' for the moment.

This is the kind of leap that will garner attention nationally, if it gets repeated often enough.  MLS can benefit with this kind of marketing.  There's emotion in the crowd and the player is connecting with the fans, just like how players from NFL teams often have copied the Green Bay players and tried to do a similar jump into the stands after exciting plays on the field.

Will 'Wondo's Leap' in San Jose catch on in other MLS stadiums?  Will other MLS players make a leap, to hug fans after they score a goal?

Here's a list of most likely MLS stadiums to get raucous enough to encourage the player to go for the 'leap.'  The list combines stadium percentage of tickets sold with how fans from that stadium react.  The fans can't be those type who are sitting on their hands throughout the match.

The LA Galaxy could have made the list, but the players who score goals for them, Keane and Juninho, tend to do acrobatics after goals, and for Beckham and Donovan, a dive into the fans may be too undignified for them.

#9) Colorado's fans do well at times.  This season they are at 88% capacity.  They still need that star player, but there's definite potential for a 'leap.'

#8) Houston is learning their new stadium.  Fans are coming out in big numbers.  The momentum is still building.  Almost at 95% capacity.

#7) Philadelphia's fans are busting out at times, but the team doesn't score often.  A third-year expansion team and the fans are incredibly consistent.  At a huge 99% capacity.

#6) Vancouver has excitement and fan numbers, selling more than 90% capacity.  They are waiting to get a little more organized.  Fans in the West can tend to more crazy stuff, it seems.

#5) Salt Lake always brings in big crowds to games.  The fans get wild.  It is an outstanding possibility for a 'leap' to come soon.  Almost at 95% capacity.

#4) Seattle is an obvious huge possibility for a 'leap.'  They have the most fans coming to games in all of MLS, more than 40,000 per game.  It is for this reason, a player might feel confused and not know which section to go towards.

#3) Kansas City has the stadium packed and the fans sit close in.  Kamara and Sapong already have their thing they do after scoring, but another player might end up going for a 'leap.'  Sold out.

#2) Portland has a perfect setting for a 'leap.'  The fans stand and cheer throughout a match.  With so much energy from the fans, one huge goal might be the turning point for one player.  Sold out.

#1) San Jose has been the team to set the bar.  When their new stadium is ready for business, expect a 'Wondo Leap' sometime soon after the home opener.

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