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Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski voted MLS MVP

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POSTED November 29, 2012 11:15 p.m.

CARSON (AP) — Chris Wondolowski won Major League Soccer's MVP award Thursday by an appropriately huge margin for the San Jose Earthquakes forward who dominated the league's goal-scoring race.

Wondolowski capped his remarkable season by lifting the MVP trophy at Home Depot Center during the week of festivities leading up to the MLS Cup on Saturday.

"It's an individual award, but I like to think of it as a team award, because I wouldn't be here without those guys," Wondolowski said. "There's not many one-man goals scored by our team, and that shows you what kind of a team we have."

The Bay Area native scored 27 goals, tying the MLS season record set by Tampa Bay's Roy Lassiter in 1996, and won the Golden Boot as the league's top scorer while leading San Jose to the Supporters' Shield with the best regular-season record. He is the first Earthquakes player to win the MVP award, and the first MLS player to lead the league in goals for three straight years.

The 29-year-old former Earthquakes reserve team player received 91 percent of MLS club management votes, 97 percent of media votes and 71 percent of player votes for a combined 259 percent. Thierry Henry of New York Red Bulls was runner-up with a combined 14 percent, and Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City was third with 7 percent.

"There's a terrific story that Chris brings to our league, one that I think serves as an inspiration for all those tens of millions of people that play this game," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "To be able to go and get signed by an MLS club, play as a reserve player and then become one of the great players in Major League Soccer is something that speaks to his tremendous prowess."

Wondolowski wasn't recruited to play Division I soccer out of De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., but was drafted by MLS' first version of the Earthquakes in 2005 after starring at Chico State. He moved to Houston with that Earthquakes franchise in 2006, but scored just four MLS goals in parts of four seasons with the Dynamo before the expansion Earthquakes acquired him in a trade in June 2009.

Wondolowski immediately capitalized on his first consistent playing time under San Jose coach Frank Yallop, leading MLS with 18 goals in 2010 before tying for the league lead with 16 last season.

"There's not a more deserving person to win this," Yallop said. "He's such a team fella. He just wants to win. He's not selfish. He'd do anything for his teammates, all the things you'd want in a player. To have 27 goals is an amazing feat in this very tough league."

Wondolowski arrived in Los Angeles from Washington, D.C., where he had spoken with several U.S. senators in recent days to raise awareness for Native American health issues. Wondolowski's mother is a member of the Kiowa tribe.

"It's part of my heritage, part of who I am," Wondolowski said. "I still have a lot of family there, and it means a lot to me to shine light onto their conditions."

In awards announced Wednesday, Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen was voted Goalkeeper of the Year, receiving a combined 146 percent. Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy was second with 30 percent followed by Seattle's Michael Gspurning with 28 percent.

Columbus forward Federico Higuain — the brother of Real Madrid's Gonzolo Higuain — was voted Newcomer of the Year. He received 59 percent, followed by San Jose defender Victor Bernardez (51) and Gspurning (32).

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