[MLS] The last of our stories ranking each MLS team by position focuses on the forwards. Their productivity this season is an important factor, but each team’s cast of forwards is also evaluated by depth, consistency, and quality of play.
Only Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, Columbus and FC Dallas are scoring considerably more than one goal per game, so it’s been slim pickings for many of the men up front in 2010. Another factor blurring the process is several teams use players up top and in midfield, so the presence of those players has been reflected in the rankings of midfielders as well as this list.
1. LOS ANGELES. Preseason ranking: 3. Since Landon Donovan (five goals, 11 assists) can line up as second forward or in any of several attacking midfield positions, his attacking prowess and the sharp play of Edson Buddle (13 goals) moves the Galaxy atop the list despite the loss of Alan Gordon (traded to Chivas USA). Youngster Tristan Bowen is maturing into a very promising forward and a few good games from Jovan Kirovski wouldn’t hurt.
2. FC DALLAS. Preseason: 8. Quasi-midfielders David Ferreira (six goals, seven assists) and Atiba Harris (three goals) often give FCD a multi-forward look when they play with Jeff Cunningham (seven goals). Their interchanging of positions is one reason teams have trouble stopping them. Add to this trio the recent acquisition of Colombian forward Milton Rodriguez (one goal in five games) and FCD can push forward various combinations.
3. REAL SALT LAKE. Preseason: 6. Coach Jason Kreis has very shrewdly meted out playing time to his forwards. Alvaro Saborio leads the team with eight goals, Robbie Findley and Fabian Espindola are next on the list with five apiece. Those 18 goals are one-half of RSL’s league-leading total of 36. Aside from scoring, they bring different abilities; opponents must cope with Findley’s speed, Saborio’s strength, and Espindola’s cleverness.
4. COLUMBUS. Preseason: 4. The search for a reliable forward to complement attacker Guillermo Barros Schelotto is still underway, yet with his production (five goals, seven assists) and reasonable contributions from Steven Lenhart and Emilio Renteria (four goals each) the Crew has risen to the top of the Eastern Conference. More had been expected from Jason Garey (just one goal in 18 games) and with the Concacaf schedule looming his output must increase.
5. NEW YORK. Preseason: 13. Once Juan Pablo Angel (11 goals) and Thierry Henry get in sync with each other, the Red Bulls could be the most potent team in the league. Salou Ibrahim has scored three goals in very limited duty, and a healthy Macoumba Kandji (one goal in 10 games) adds scoring punch as a wide mid or up top.
6. SEATTLE. Preseason: 2. The partnership of Blaise Nkufo (no points in four games) and Fredy Montero (eight goals, nine assists) has yet to mesh yet Montero has been dangerous enough on his own to spark a strong surge by the Sounders. Nate Jaqua’s return from a long injury layoff may pay dividends down the stretch. Roger Levesque (one goal in 12 games) will see spot duty, and coach Sigi Schmid also has the option of using Uruguayan international Alvaro Fernandez at forward.
7. COLORADO. Preseason: 5. The production of Omar Cummings (five goals) and Conor Casey (seven goals) is down from the last year, when they combined for 24 goals and 13 assists, but Casey’s recent return to health is likely to get both of them back to maximum performance. They are perhaps the best front-line pairing in MLS, but there’s little depth to support them with only rookie Andre Akpan and third-year man (and former Quake) Quincy Amarikwa.
8. PHILADELPHIA. Preseason: 15. With nine goals and nine assists while splitting time up front and in midfield, Sebastien Le Toux is a threat anywhere in the attacking third. He can go for goal from close range or distance yet is an excellent passer. Rookie Danny Mwanga (seven goals) is a powerful presence gaining in confidence; rookie Jack McInerney and veteran Alejandro Moreno have only one goal apiece.
9. CHIVAS USA. Preseason: 9. Justin Braun leads the team with seven goals and recent addition Giancarlo Maldonado (one goal in four games) may be able to beef up the front line. Maicon Santos was released and wound up in Toronto, and Maykel Galindo was one of several players sent out on loan to the D-2 Pro League. Newcomer Alan Gordon has years of MLS experience but has never been a goal machine (16 goals in 99 regular-season games).
10. TORONTO FC. Preseason: 14. The defensive focus is always on Dwayne De Rosario, and with good reason; he’s scored eight goals and assisted on three playing both positions. Yet Chad Barrett (six goals) is having a decent season, and Mista – while yet to score in four league matches – netted a vital goal Tuesday against Cruz Azul in the Concacaf Champions League.
11. KANSAS CITY. Preseason: 12. Without Kei Kamara (seven goals), this attack would be truly feeble. Josh Wolff (one goal) Davy Arnaud and rookie Teal Bunbury (two apiece) are hurting. The Wizards have taken a lot of shots (225) with very little payoff.
12. SAN JOSE. Preseason: 10. Chris Wondolowski (seven goals) has played up top with a variety of partners, none of them very productive. Cornell Glen and Ryan Johnson have only one goal apiece, and Scott Sealy has none. Second on the team with three is midfielder/forward Arturo Alvarez. An injury deprived San Jose of Brazilian Eduardo for all but 31 minutes of the season, hence the signing of compatriot Geovanni earlier this week.
13. NEW ENGLAND. Preseason: 16. Marko Perovic scored his fifth goal Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to Chicago, and his pairing with Serbian compatriot Ilija Stolica (one goal in two games) bodes well for the future. But the here and now is what counts. Zach Schilawski (five goals) is struggling with demands of the pro game, and Kheli Dube (four assists) has yet to net.
14. CHICAGO. Preseason: 1. A rather modest output amongst the forward line isn’t what Fire fans expected. Brian McBride (four goals, two assists) hasn’t been a dominant presence and Collins John scored just twice before being berated for his poor work habits by coach Carlos de los Cobos. Patrick Nyarko (seven assists) is more of a winger and set-up man. How much Mexican international Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg can fatten the goal total is the major question.
15. HOUSTON. Preseason: 7. None of the forwards will look back on 2010 fondly. Here are the numbers; Brian Ching, three goals in 13 games; Dominic Oduro, two goals in 17 games; Cam Weaver, Joseph Ngwenya and departed DP Luis Angel Landin with one goal apiece. The Dynamo is last in shots on goal (63).
16. D.C. UNITED. Preseason: 11. Offseason signing Danny Allsopp is an honest enough worker but just not ruthless enough with his finishing. The team cut loose Luciano Emilio, and Pablo Hernandez has yet to find the net in five games. The team leader in goals is 17-year-old midfielder Andy Najar with three. Like Allsopp, Chris Pontius and Santino Quaranta – both of whom have also played in midfield – are stuck on two goals and short on confidence.